Zero Kills Everyone

Doctor Bishop opened the box. Inside, a smaller box, made of dark metal, with a small dial and a red button.

“As per your order, Mr Marcus.”

Edgar leaned over the device and smiled. “So?”

“Ten kills only the worst. The most hideous fiends you’ll ever find on this earth. From there, you can work your way down.”

“So setting the dial to one will…”

“Tiny thoughts of envy, possibly low-level rage, a little lust perhaps. I can’t be entirely sure.”

Edgar stared closer at the dial’s tiny white dashes. “I see you’ve added a zero, doctor. What will that do?”

The Man Who Stopped The World

Hi all. Apologies for the long gap between posts. I was working on a project for a website I write for and it took up much more time than I had anticipated. It’s football related, so may not appeal to some, but the following link is to the fruits of my labours. It’s a video, about Manchester United, and it’s 3:07 long. If you’ve got time (after reading this flash, obvs!) please give it a viewing: http://youtu.be/URryk1BWI9k. Thanks!

In terms of flash, I’m back with a full 1,000 worder for you. Enjoy!

The Man Who Stopped The World

The throbbing in his ankles subsided as Martin took a load off. The rocks were hardly soft but more than welcome. He slipped off his borrowed hiking boots, then his sweaty socks, and rubbed his feet as forcefully as his wearied limps would allow. He let out the kind of ecstasy-filled groan you could only make when you knew nobody was listening.

He sucked in a helping of fresh summer air. The smell of wet grass and salt filled his nostrils. While it was mid-afternoon and the sun shone brightly, the open sea laid out before him offered up a chilly breeze for his approval. He approved, and sucked in some more.

The roaring sea smashed and crashed into the stubborn white rocks below. Martin dare not take a second look at the drop under his feet. After all, if he fell, who would there be to help him? Better not to think about it. He instead diverted his gaze straight forward, and out at the possibilities ahead.

He pulled a map from the satchel at his side. Over the shoulder variety, more University student than reluctantly-ardent explorer. He opened the map fully and laid it across his lap, slipping a red pen from the heavily creased edge. It was a map of the UK, crudely edited in red. Many circles around many cities. All filled in with an X.

He glanced to his right and down at the port below. He could make out the outlines of numerous people in and around the many lines of queuing traffic. Except they weren’t queueing, not any more. They were stacked bumper-to-bumper, forcibly so. Some more forcibly than others. Martin trailed the line of cars all the way from the car parks to the dock itself. He wiped his rapidly-perspiring palms on his tired shirt. Even now, he felt a lump begin to form in his throat.

A ship. A derelict ship, on its side, half in the sea, half crashed in the dock. Bodies sprinkled all around it like rogue drops of sugar around a decorated cake. To the left of the derelict ship lay another, gaping hole in its hull, partly submerged, waves crashing all around it. Softly bobbing in the ocean like a plastic toy in a bath tub.

Martin should have known this would be waiting for him. By now, he should have known better.

Ever since day one, when everything stopped, some things carried on just that little bit longer. And a little bit longer was all it took for hundreds and thousands of people to die. Cars travelled further, unmanned, planes fell from the sky, unguided, and ships, it seemed, came to a halt wherever they could. You see, on that first day, in that first, think-about-it-every-second-of-every-day-since moment, all living things stopped dead. If they were unlucky enough to be inside something that wasn’t living, something that didn’t stop, they would most probably be properly dead. The no-coming-back kind of dead. Deceased. Despite knowing all of this, Martin had hoped, he desperately hoped it wouldn’t be the same here. He was wrong.

He slashed a large red X through the circle around Dover. He screwed the map into a tight ball and launched it into the wind. He watched as the ball spiralled down into the gaping mouth of the ocean below. Like everything else, it was soon gone. Once upon a time, there were some things Martin had been desperate to see gone. But there were others, as he was now finding, he was lost without.

On that first day, or last day depending on how you looked at it, Martin was well and truly lost. After his wife’s accident, life may as well had just stopped then. Only it didn’t, of course. Everything kept moving. Clerks kept doing their jobs. Bosses noticed your absence. Family noticed changes in your behaviour. Friends told you to stop being selfish and switch the machine off. Medical bills piled up. Other bills piled on top of them. Your medication ran out. Screaming, shouting, fighting. Crying. Until you reached a point where you just wished, nay pleaded, desperately, hopelessly begged, that for just a single second everything would stop so you could, for the first time in years, breathe.

Since that moment, Martin had been breathing clearly for 412 days.

He gulped down another breath. The sea air slowed his heart and chilled his lungs. After another day’s walking, it was a welcome relief. But the relief wasn’t to last too long; Martin had another big decision to make.

The UK was lost, this much was now clear. Not a single sign of animated life in over a year. It was safe to assume it was the same everywhere else, of course. Martin had figured this after the first week went by and no help came. But it’s a funny little thing, hope. Just the smallest drop can be enough to drive a man through things he never thought himself capable of. When common sense says give up, hope drives you forward. And to drive forward now carried the question: by land – or under land to be precise – or by sea?

Martin hated the water. Always had. While the weather was kind and the sea calm, his lack of even the most basic of sailing skills should have made the decision easy. If anything happened at sea, he truly would be lost. His fear was what he would find below. This was something he had been preparing himself for. Had one of the trains crashed, which was more than likely, the entire Eurotunnel would be nothing more than a 23 mile tomb. A lump returned to his throat. Palms grew sweaty. His heart began its anxiety-beat. Even now, he could do with a second to breathe.

Martin squeezed his eyes shut and wished the world to life. Millionth times the charm, right? Silence. He’d try again later, hope would see to that. He slipped on his socks and boots, took one final deep breath and bounced to his feet.

If he rushed he could make Folkestone by nightfall.

The Tate Incident

The following transcript was recovered from the offices of Dr. Liam Maloney, a senior practitioner at the Nashua Wood Health Centre. His notes indicate that due to nature of the incident which led to this meeting, he felt it prudent to record the exchange for his records. While his notes do not go into any great detail regarding the preceding events (and no further evidence could be found), considering what we now know, the date of this entry, and the nature of the described incident, should be of the highest possible interest.

Interview: Myself/Mrs Katherine Tate. 2:30pm, July 14th, 2012. RE: The Tate Incident.

Doctor Liam Maloney: I know this is hard, Kathy, but I promise it won’t take long.
Katherine Tate: It’s OK… I’m fine, honestly.
You understand why I have to do this. I mean, you’re happy to continue?
Yes, I’m sure.
Good. Let’s start at Saturday morning. What do you remember?
It was sunny. Mark, Amber and I were out in the back garden. Mark and I were in the loungers, soaking up a little of the morning sun. It was before lunch but already almost twenty degrees. I was drinking an iced tea, Mark had a Sprite.
And where was Amber?
She was playing down the far end of the garden. I had told her to stay where I could see her but, as usual, she hadn’t. I know it sounds silly, considering we were in our own garden, but with the woods being just beyond it always makes… made me a little wary.
And Mark?
Mark was led next to me, with his headphones in as he always did.
So you couldn’t see Amber at all?
I could hear her. I was reading a little Stephen King, but kept glancing up every now and again toward our little forest at the end of the garden. Amber really loved it there. She was always bringing us back mini beasts and other assorted creepy crawlies she found. She’s nothing like me in that respect; I can’t stand all that dirt. But she loves… sorry-
It’s OK.
Well she loved all that. She’d spend all day in those bushes if we let her. Anyway, I’d call out to her and she shout back that she was fine, that she was exploring and stuff. It was a normal summery weekend morning.
So tell me when you first realised something was wrong?
I’m not exactly sure when it was I realised I hadn’t heard from Amber in a while. It still makes me feel sick thinking about it. Can you believe that the other night I actually tried to blame King for making his writing so engrossing. Ridiculous, I know.
But eventually you noticed something was up?
Yes. After I called out to her several times to no reply, I leaned over and nudged Mark. He told me I was being silly and make a joke about my mother, his mother-in-law. I called out one more time, but when she didn’t call back, Mark said he’d go check.
Go on.
Well I watched him venture between our two big trees and into the bushes. Whereas Amber would usually be on her knees and quickly out of sight, Mark, as you know, is pretty tall, so I could still just about see his head. It didn’t take him long to shout out and I went running.
That’s when you first saw it?
Yes. On the far side of the bushes, in a little clearing before the fence, Mark was crouched over Amber, who I couldn’t see. It all happened so fast. I didn’t even realise she wasn’t breathing. Mark was probably shouting at me but I don’t remember hearing him. I was just staring at the creature, it was stood in the dirt watching us.
It was standing?
It was up on its hind legs. It was about the size of a chicken I guess, but was scaled like a lizard. It seemed to have a few feathers on the top of its head and around its tail. I remember thinking how curious Amber must have been when she saw it. It looked kinda cute, not vicious at all. Of course, I was about to discover it was.
Do you remember what colour the feathers were?
I think maybe mostly white, with a tinge of blue. It’s hard to be completely sure, to be honest, but that sounds about right.
You’re doing great, Kathy. What next?
Just as I was about to move closer, it leapt into the air and onto Mark’s back. He was so focussed on Amber he hadn’t even noticed the thing watching us. He wailed as it landed on him and blood starting pouring right away. When it had been on the ground I hadn’t noticed how long and sharp the claws were on its little hands and feet. Mark jumped up and shook but the thing wouldn’t let go. It was biting him and Mark was screaming louder. I could see Amber now, cuts on her arms and legs and a big rip in her dress. She was covered in blood. I wanted to run right to her, but I had never heard Mark scream like that. I was still carrying my Under the Dome copy which, as you know, is a hefty tome. I swiped at the thing but still it wouldn’t budge. It was really clinging on. The hissing sound it was making was horrible; it really was like a mad dream at this point.
It hissed?
Yes, kinda like a cat, but a little higher pitched. And the smell was hideous, like when your dog has really bad breath but a hundred times worse. I wanted to throw up; later I did. The thing continued to hiss and scratch and bite and Mark was screaming and thrashing. I whacked the thing as hard as I could with my book again and it finally fell off and went scattering into the bushes.
You didn’t see it again?
No. I assumed it disappeared into the woods, but to be honest I was a little bit distracted.
Of course.
I sat with Amber as Mark rushed back inside and called for an ambulance. She wasn’t breathing… But if I had known how much blood Mark was losing, I…
It’s fine, Kathy. The rest I know. You’ve done great. We’re done.

This interview was carried out five days prior to the first recorded cases of the Ratchings Virus, otherwise commonly referred to as ‘Outbreak Day 001’.

The Falling

It had been a rainless summer, so the day it starting falling was a relief. Crops were soaked, lakes swelled, creatures drank. Some people danced.

But after a week, relief turned to concern. Crops were overwhelmed, lakes burst, creatures drowned. People stopped dancing then. But still it fell, unrelenting, ceaseless.

So we climbed. As high and as fast as we could. Lives discarded, as were people.

Still it falls, but we can’t climb much higher. The land can only offer us so much protection. Once we reach the bounds of its generosity, if it’s still falling, the only way is down.

Undetected Innocence

This week’s flash was entered in Rebecca Clare Smith’s #SatSunTails challenge. She enjoyed it, but found it too confusing. I thought I’d post it again here for your amusement and to see what you guys think, which bit confuses you etc.

The stories had to clock in at around 150 words. The prompt was “undetected innocence” and this image:

The story wasn’t titled at the time, but I guess Undetected Innocence is as good as any. Here it is:

The chains are cold, the ground wet. The Lord’s tears pound my skin, as though he sees what has become of me. If I’d listened to Mother, I wouldn’t find myself so crudely bound. She’ll be cross. But it’s too late now.

Or is it?

The Devil’s workers sleep, ignorantly warm inside their metal boxes. They think me weak, innocent. But Innocence is nothing more than a name, given to me before my own thoughts formed. I’m told it’s proved to be ironically apt.

The chains are cold, hard. And easily slipped. The Lord’s shouts will conceal my escape, which I intend to make once my job is complete.

On their table, the Devil’s own tools lay unguarded. Various devices for fiendish human interaction. One calls out louder than the rest. Leather grip, sharpened steel. It will do.

I’ll make Mother proud.

I’ll finish the Lord’s work, and then escape. Undetected.

Him and Her

You know when you have a story idea, play around with it in your head (maybe while in the car) and then sit to write it and it comes out pretty much fully formed? Yeah, that.

Edit: I’ve written a companion piece to this one, making it a 2-for-1 #FridayFlash. Enjoy!

Him

He tapped the vial on the rim of the glass. The remainder of its contents fell into the sparkling liquid below. He shook the glass gently, careful not to spill any, and placed it down on the extravagantly decorated dining table. Roses and candles and expensive china covered the table’s heavy oak. She was in for quite a surprise.

* * * *

She smiled as the taxi pulled away. She could already see the house was dimly lit; nothing but the faint glow of candle light seeped out from behind drawn curtains. She pushed aside thoughts of dresses and rings and centrepiece decorations as she bounced as carefully as her heels would allow her up the stone path. At the door, she took a deliberately deep breath.

* * * *

The sound echoed around the court room as stern gavel met unflinching wood. It had been an extravagant slam to end the most irregular of proceedings.

“We find the defendant… not guilty.”

The room gasped.

* * * *

He watched as the judge struggled to retake control of his court room. Family members screamed, some cried. The jury struggled to keep calm, impartial. He sat and watched, waiting to be set free. His lawyer tapped him on the shoulder and gripped his hand.

He smiled.

* * * *

She brushed down the front of her crimson dress and straightened her back. She leaned forward and knocked the door handle twice. She then crossed her left leg in front of her right and packed brightly-painted finger nails tightly into sweaty palms. She waited for the man she was to spend to the rest of her life with to answer the door.

Her

“This way.” He pointed down the alley. “I know a short cut.”

He took a step forward, alone. “It’s safe, I promise.”

He placed a long arm around her shoulder; the act of ushering disguised as kindness.

He felt her shiver underneath his borrowed overcoat.

“It’s not far.”

* * * *

She liked him, she really did. He was kind and generous, made her laugh. And yes, he was beautiful. She felt herself swell as he placed his arm around her. It was a cold night, but she felt warm in his company.

“You’re really hot,” she whispered softly. “It’s nice.”

She noticed his smile. It really was a lovely smile. She gripped him a little tighter as they walked deeper into darkness.

* * * *

The street lights were gone, building lights faded. The alley long devoid of people. Nothing but trash cans and old bottles. He was happy.

He pushed her up against the wall. “We’re here.”

He noted her flinch; it would be the first of many. He liked it. She had a puzzled look on her face, he liked that too.

“Relax, baby.” He pulled off the overcoat and dropped it to the floor. “Just enjoy what you’ve had coming to you for a while.”

She smiled.

* * * *

She slid the strap of her dress to one side, offering her neck. The smug glee on his face made her feel sick. His disgustingly wet lips began exploring her exposed skin.

It was too easy.

“You’ve had this coming to you for quite a while,” she whispered in his ear.

She sank sharpened teeth deep into soft, warm flesh

He flinched. It would be the first of many.

The Architect

It was a bad day for Ben Brown when the zombie apocalypse began. His book had just become a best-seller; an “apocalyptic masterpiece” one Amazon reviewer had not been paid to say. His audience was hungry; they consumed it in their droves. Until the dead started to rise…

His audience quickly lost their appetite. Living out his nightmare was a lot less fun.

The fact it all played out just as he had written did concern him a little. What concerned him more was the sudden lack of sales. Zero is never a good figure.

He needed to do something about it. Something major, something drastic. If he had started it all, could he end it?

It would need to be one hell of a sequel.

How do you reverse a world overrun with zombies? There would need to be a startling revival, a sudden shift in the tide. A miraculous cure could work, but it wouldn’t be sensational enough to grab his (decimated) audience’s attention.

A super-advanced alien race would be better. They could remove the zombie problem – with giant robots and massive lasers – and help the humans retake the planet. He’d have to write it very carefully. Yes, this would be an alien encounter with a perfectly-written happy ending.

That’s definitely a story the survivors would need to read.

Demon

Wakey wakey, Johnny. Time to play.

I know it sounds, well you know, but these words were ringing in my head before and after I woke up in the middle of last night. It was like I was dreaming them and then hearing them. I know how it sounds, but you asked for the truth, so here it is.

I sat upright in bed and listened; the house was silent but for the gentle hum of the central heating. Despite the hum, my room felt cold. I reached up to the window above my bed and checked it: closed. I leant across and checked the radiator: on. Again, I know it sounds strange or whatever, but it was freezing in there. I took this as my cue to jump out of bed and hit the head.

I slipped out of my room – trying to be as careful as I could as to not wake up the ‘rents – and snuck down the hallway into the bathroom. I did my business, splashed a little water on my face, then made my way back down the hall. As I passed my parents room, I caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye which compelled me to stop dead in my tracks. On either side of the bed lay my ‘rents, stood over each of them were, well… those things. They lurched over them, watching them sleep. As I peered through the gap between door and frame, the first thing that hit me was the smell.

Damn, those fucking things stank.

I covered my mouth and nose with my hand and fought the urge to throw up. It was horrible. Facing a losing battle, I pulled my t-shirt up over my face and took a few deep breaths. But it was no good: I gagged and then coughed, too loudly.

Now, you have to bear in mind it was the middle of the night and I was very close to passing out at this point, so to say I was myself would be a lie. Just thinking about it now, I’m not sure what I was doing. But when I saw one of those things go to grab my ma, I just acted on instinct, I guess. Like a crazy cruise control.

I stormed into the room, to the right hand side of the bed – my ma’s side. I threw a lazy punch at the thing’s head, but missed, barely grazing it’s scaly brown skin. Scaly brown skin, yes I know. Crazy. But I’m sure you’ve seen it for yourself by now, so I don’t need to tell you how implausible it would normally seem. My punch may have missed but it got the thing’s attention. It turned away from my mother and toward me, approaching slowly as I backed away.

Now that the thing was facing me, I could see it had three, small yellow eyes. Two were where a regular person’s eyes would be, the other where you would usually find the bridge of the nose. This was all happening so fast I didn’t have a chance to stop and think, “What the fuck!” As the yellow eyes ambled toward me, I looked for something I could use as a weapon.

The first thing I laid my eyes on was my ma’s hair dryer. It’s not exactly a baseball bat, I know, but at that moment I’d have probably grabbed a banana if that’s what was laying around. As I snatched it up into the air, the bloody plug flew round and smacked me in the knee. It was the jolt I most probably needed. Stung to life, I swung my makeshift weapon toward the thing, smashing it into its head. The thing fell to the floor much easier than I expected. I dove on top of it and slammed the hair dryer down into its skull one, two, three times. On the fourth smash, I heard a most definite crack. It was dark, but my hands and arms were now wet with what I knew to be blood. I’m not going to lie, I felt sick. But a groan to my left shocked me back into action.

The other thing was now sitting atop my pa, with its top half twisted so its head faced me. Without thinking, I dropped the hair dryer and dove across the bed, grabbing its throat as we rolled to the floor. I landed on top of it and forced all my weight down as I gripped the thing’s scaly neck between two bloody hands. I squeezed like I’ve never squeezed before. You’ll laugh, but I felt like Homer Simpson. OK, you won’t laugh. The thing flayed and wrestled at first, but I’m a big guy, and it soon stopped. I squeezed a little bit longer anyway, just to make sure. That’s when you guys showed up.

“That’s quite a tale, John.”

I could tell the detective didn’t believe a word of what I had just said. But they must have seen the bodies by now, spoke to my parents to get their side of things. Surely he could put two and two together?

I nod.

“But you see, here’s the thing, John. We did find two bodies in your house, but not of any creatures from the lagoon. We’re pretty sure they’re the bodies of Maureen Moxley, 57, and John Moxley Sr, 60 – your mother and father.”

Well done, Johnny.

I can’t focus, can’t take in what he’s said. Either of them. Too many voices. Did he say my parents? Well done for what? “No…but, no. They were there. I saved them!” I can’t be sure, but I think I’m shouting.

“You saved nobody,” he snarls. He’s upset. “You murdered both of them, you sick fuck.”

But I didn’t. They were there. I saw those things with my own eyes, could touch them, smell them. They were there. Weren’t they? The detective slams his hands down on the desk and shouts something else, but I don’t hear him. Too many voices, all talking at once. One much louder than the others.

Come on now, Johnny, it’s time to play.

The Grey Man

If you hear his scratches, learn to accept your fate. Once you hear his scratches, it’s already far too late.

The Grey Man

Jenny semi-stifles a yawn and rubs her baby blue eyes as she rolls across her bedraggled duvet. Hank the Elephant has fallen from his side of the bed; she reaches into the darkness for him. She finds his trunk and swings him upward, tucking him under the duvet at her side. She glances around her room and sees nothing but black: it’s definitely not morning time yet. Her clock tick-tocks away on the far wall, but the night’s shadows make it impossible to read. She sits upright for a moment and listens; the silence of the house broken only intermittently by the wind’s gentle whistle against her window. Jenny can’t even hear her dad snoring, which she usually can when nighttime sleep interrupters visit her.

A sound.

Not the wind or the clock, or her father’s snoring or Hank’s teasing. Nothing so mundane and recognisable. Something else.

Jenny straightens her back and grips Hank tightly across her chest. While the black which surrounds her shrouds the goings-on of the night, she feels something close.

The sound again, coming from her bedroom door.

Definitely foreign, much clearer this time. Almost like a scratch. Like a rusty nail on an old chalkboard, Jenny considers. A sound she knows all too well. She feels the palms of her hand moisten, quickly dampening Hank’s floppy trunk. She pulls the duvet up to her chin, forming a thin, nylon shield. It’s not a lot, but it’s something.

A strong, tormentingly-long scratch reaches out from across the room. Jenny finds herself clenches her fists. Its point of origin absolutely the other side of her bedroom door. Her child’s body tells her to turn away; clammy palms now joined by feet and neck, sweat coursing from every tiny pore. But she can’t. She stares across the black, eyes locked on the door as the scratching grows louder, deeper.

Jenny can’t see the door handle turning, but the distinctive creak of its metal alerts her it is happening. As if finally catching up with what is going on, her curiosity wilts and she finds the strength to slip fully under the covers and out of view. Out of sight, out of… danger. Or so the mind of nine-year old girl believes. She hears the tap-tap… tap, as the door nestles to a rest against her pine wood skirting. Dad never did put up that rubber rest like he promised. Her disappointment is short-lived; footsteps ripple throughout the room. The click-clock noise they spawn is jarring; the only other time Jenny has heard such a sound was her father’s shoes on the hard wood floor of the church on the day of her mother’s funeral. A sound she – even at such a young age – knows she will never forget. As scared as she is – a fact Hank and the grip he finds around his neck can attest to – she finds the sound strangely comforting, enough to pull the duvet down below her eyes. As she does so, the footsteps stop.

Jenny finds the room empty. Nothing but dark corners and the finest illumination of moonlight across the foot of her bed. But she’s not alone, she can feel it. Then, as the footsteps slowly make their owner’s presence once-again known, the blurry grey outline of a man can be made out. It’s almost like a mirage, like grey smoke on black night. She can only just see it – the hour makes it hard to be sure – but Jenny is positive that it’s there. The footsteps stop, and the silhouette disappears, right at the foot of her bed. It may have been only the briefest of glimpses, but she’s sure the shape was that of a tall man, wearing one of those funny hats like those men she’s seen in the old movies her father always watches. Abraham something she thinks one might be called.

For a moment, nothing but the sound of her own breathing. One hand grips Hank, the other sinks fingernails into palmy flesh. The reprieve is brief.

A hand reaches out from the foot of the bed; the grey silhouette reappearing. The arm is long and spindly, reaching much farther than any adult Jenny has ever seen before. She squeezes her eyes tight and grips Hank tighter still. She knows she should scream – her body screams itself for her to do so – but she doesn’t. She braces herself as the sensation of bony fingers through her hair sends goosebumps across her skin, and the sound of scratching echoes all around her. Winter’s cold night bites into her bare skin as she feels herself being lifted from her bed. She holds on tightly to nothing and finds herself thinking of her mother.

She slowly drifts away into the black, the sound of heavy footsteps marking her passage to a place where nightmares of scratches and shadows await her.

Monitor’d

Nobody noticed what he was doing at first. It was subtle, nothing more than a wobble. But as Will’s anger rose, his actions became less subtle, more evident. This was a problem.

He watched as Joey started, once again, to go off on Rachel. He’d probably caught her looking at another boy again, or chatting inappropriately to one of his friends, or any other pathetic reason he could conjure. Will had seen the routine many times before, but always did nothing as Rachel actually seemed to enjoy it; it was their dance, their thing. But recently she had seemed more upset by them and it became clear she was tired of this lovers’ masquerade. So, as Joey’s voice grew louder, so did Will’s irritation. It was unfortunate – for both of them, Will thought, but mainly for Joey – that he had already spotted the old computer monitor resting on top of the IT classroom’s storage cupboard. It was one of those early models whose sheer size was only matched by its weight. The classroom was nowadays fitted with much smaller, flatter screens, of course, but Mr Jenkins had fought to keep a couple of these older monitors handy “just in case”.

Will tried to stop himself, he really did. He had begun trying to teach himself the best way to deal with his new “issue”. He had never really considered himself as having much of a temper, but it had become clear that even the slightest irritation could cause the issue to quickly get out of hand. Just ask the raccoon which surprised him in the garden last Wednesday. Poor bugger.

So it was posing to be quite a problem that Joey was throwing one of his tantrums right in front of him. The computer screen shook a little harder and, unbeknownst to William Macintosh, someone was watching.

* * * *

While the rest of the class chit-chatted away, some watching the argument taking place, others ignoring it entirely, only one person sat still. Summer Stanley was watching him, as she often did. Sat behind Will, and out of his line of sight, she could see that the events unfolding at the front of the classroom had his full attention. She watched closely as he watched closely, face ahead, focused and strong. Summer didn’t say anything as she saw the computer screen above Joey Massey’s head begin to shake. Hell, what would she shout? “Watch out Joey, flying IT equipment!” She’d look even sillier than everybody already thought she was. Plus, she didn’t much like Joey anyway. She watched for a while longer, just to make sure: it was most definitely moving, the screen glistening in the mid-afternoon sun.

That’s when it happened.

When later interviewed by police officers, most of the pupils would say it looked as though Joey slipped on a sheet of ice, legs flying into the air as his top half hit the deck. It was an apt description. Summer actually missed this part, such was her focus on Will. She didn’t miss what happened next. With Joey now led face up on the floor, the shaking monitor rolled of the storage cupboard and fell to earth. There was no drastic movement, Summer noted, but a gentle roll, as if an invisible giant had flicked the monitor with its index finger. If the roll was gentle, the landing was not. As it came crashing down, smashing Joey Massey’s skull with an attention-grabbing crunch – so loud, Max Harper would later claim to have heard the smash from halfway down the corridor – the entire class stopped.

For a moment, silence. Quiet realisation.

Then, noise. Lots of it.

Rachel screamed and turned away, before falling toward the floor herself. One of her friends – conveniently placed nearby in case this latest quarrel got out of hand – managed to cushion the fall by part-grabbing her as she fell. Then she turned, saw a computer monitor where Joey’s head should be, and screamed herself. Then she threw up a little, covering her unconscious friend’s back. Summer watched as some of her classmates ran from the room, some cried, some also screamed, and those which dared take a closer look also filled the floor with their putrid bile. But they all seemed to be doing something. All expect Will… and herself.

* * * *

The screams were deafening, a reaction Will had not taken into consideration. Girls his age didn’t like seeing IT equipment where heads should be, apparently. Mental note made. He felt sure that, once the dust had settled, if anyone figured out what he had done, they’d probably thank him. Will noted that not a single one of Joey’s friends rushed to his aid, just in case he was still alive. He wasn’t, of course – the pints of blood and traces of brain now covering the floor of Room 815 was evidence of that – but they didn’t even try. Regardless, he really needed to get these emotional impulses in check; he couldn’t be throwing around school property whenever someone got him all riled up.

And so he rose up from his chair and strolled out of the classroom, away from the scene of the impossible crime. Such was the commotion, nobody even noticed him leave.

* * * *

Summer watched as Will bounced up from his desk and slipped out of the classroom. Some students were now on their cells, frantically dialling for help. She already knew it would be of no help to Joey: he was most definitely dead. So, as the class continued to scream and panic, as Rachel continued to be unconscious, as Joey continued to be faceless, Summer followed Will and slipped out of the classroom unseen. Not that she expected to be.

Such was her happiness at that moment, she didn’t even see Mr Jenkins until he was already on top of her. Their shoulders met and, being much smaller than he was, she stumbled to the floor. He stopped for a moment – a puzzled look etched across his face – and surveyed the open air around him. His bemusement was quickly halted by another scream from within his classroom. Summer watched as he rubbed his eyes and rushed inside. She then popped to her feet and scurried down the corridor, hoping to catch Will as quickly as her little legs would allow her. She had so much she wanted to share with him.

They’d make quite the couple, she fancied.