Rewrites

“So, what’s the book about?”

“I really think you’ll dig it. It focuses on a guy who wakes up from a coma only to discover the world has been taken over by zombies.”

“Zombies, really?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Haven’t they, you know, been done before?”

“Well yeah, sure, of course they have. Anyone with AMC knows that. But never like this. You see, the guy wakes up and he’s blind-”

“Blind?”

“-yeah, blind. And deaf and dumb. He has no way of knowing what has happened and is still happening all around him. Bet you’ve never seen that before.”

“Well no, of course not.”

“Thought not.”

“So what happens exactly?”

“Well he wakes up, obviously. Wouldn’t be much of a story if he didn’t.”

“Sure.”

“Then he…”

“Then he?”

“Why am I telling you this. You’ll have to read it and find out.”

“I don’t really like zombie novels. Even dumb ones.”

“What?”

“Even deaf and dumb ones. I don’t like them.”

“But this one’s different, I told you.”

“Different how, apart from the blind, deaf and dumb thing?”

“Well…”

“What?”

“Aliens.”

“There’s aliens?”

“Yeah sure. Why not. Like I said, you’ll have to read it.”

“No, alien stuff has never really been my thing either. Zombies and aliens together sounds pretty silly, so I think I’ll pass.”

“Fine.”

“Hey, don’t be like that. I’m sure you’ve got some good stuff going on between those pages, I’m just not sure it’s for me is all.”

“Yeah, well, I haven’t even mentioned the best part yet.”

“You haven’t told me about the best part? You maybe should have led with that.”

“Yeah, but-”

“What is it?”

“Well he wakes up to a world overrun with zombies…”

“Yeah, I got that part.”

“But he’s blind, deaf-”

“And dumb. Yeah, got that bit too.”

“At the beginning of Act 2 the aliens turn up to harvest all human life.”

“And inhuman life, I guess.”

“Obviously. They’re super-advanced so they can adapt.”

“Sure, of course. And then?”

“And then, the best bit.”

“Which is?”

“My main character, who’s blind-”

“Deaf and dumb, still got all that.”

“-deaf and dumb. Right, sure. Well he…”

“He what?”

“He…”

“If you can’t remember your own-”

“… he discovers… an ancient machine buried deep within the pyramids of Egypt, a machine which, with the right know-how, will allow him to travel back in time and prevent it all from ever happening.”

“ … ”

“Pretty cool, right?”

“Yeah, I mean…”

“Go on?”

“Only the one question.”

“Fire away, Admiral.”

“How did he get to Egypt if the world is overrun with zombies and there are aliens attacking and he’s blind and deaf and dumb?”

“ … ”

“Jack?”

“You’ll have to read it and find out, I guess.”

“Sure, OK. Time travel could work.”

“Really?”

“Yeah sure. Pass it over and I’ll give it a look.”

“Right. OK. I mean that’s great. I just have to make a few last minute edits and I’ll have it to you tomorrow morning.”

“Excellent. I can’t wait.”

“Perhaps the morning after. I’ll let you know.”

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.

The Rabbit’s Foot

It was a cold Monday morning when Baby Claire’s rabbit died. It had been ill for a few days and her dad had the burial all prepared. Tears were shed and dirt was shovelled and Fluffy was laid to rest. Minus one furry white foot.

Several days and a bucket of water and borax later, the foot found itself keychain bound to the dad’s set of keys. It was for Claire of course, and it would be hers one day, but at only 3 years of age, her father would be using it for some time yet.

But not that long.

Several Fluffy-less days later, the dad’s drive to work was unexpectedly halted. He was a reliable, attentive driver, never easily distracted. Usually anyway. However, on this misty morning, a small bump in the road would undo his many years of good driving. As the car bounced up from the concrete below, Fluffy’s fluffy foot fought itself loose from its keychain prison. Trousers riding up as he drove, his bare skin felt the gentle tickle of fur, creating just enough of a distraction for him to take his eyes off the road. As his gaze dropped down, a car pulled out, and the lives of all involved changed forever.

The first person on scene was a Good Samaritan who witnessed the accident as she went to pick up her laundry. She quickly raced over to the father’s car, but, so intent was she on helping an already dead man, she failed to hear the gushing sound of fuel leaking from the engine. A small electrical spark later the car, the father, the Samaritan and the surrounding area exploded up in a wonderful display of twisted metal, blood and flame.

A paramedic reaching the scene minutes later discovered the foot miraculously undamaged at the side of road, having been blasted from the wreckage by the explosion. Saddened by the scene around her, the young woman, only two weeks into her professional career, consoled herself by travelling back to the hospital one item heavier.

It did not stay in her possession for long.

After a suspiciously long lunch break, a rushing young paramedic missed a stairwell step and enjoyed a short, sharp drop and broken neck. The rabbit’s foot was found, and kept, however, by a notoriously brilliant and well-liked doctor, who intended to give it to his wife as a surprise gift, making up for the fact he had missed their anniversary a day earlier.

Later that same afternoon, the brilliant doctor, a specialist in infectious diseases, was called away on a very important and highly classified matter. Just hours later, he found himself in a small town in the French countryside. He didn’t know it at the time, but the man he had been sent to see was infected with a new, and highly dangerous virus for which there was no cure.

It took the doctor three days to discover this fact. Many died in the meantime. On the day he discovered the cause of the outbreak, his symptoms began. Within twenty-four hours, the doctor died. On his deathbed, as hundreds of other infected people spluttered and convulsed around him, the doctor passed the rabbit’s foot on to his research assistant, wishing that it bring her better luck than it had him.

It didn’t.

Word soon reached the assistant that the French authorities intended to cut their loses and eradicate the town. She left within the hour. Three hours after that, the entire town was bombed and along with it any trace of the virus.

Or so they thought.

The assistant didn’t realise it, but she infected everything she touched and everybody she came in contact with on her frantic journey to the airport. Hundreds of people now unwittingly carried the virus’ deadly spores as they went about their daily routines. Within days, half of Europe would be infected. Several weeks later? Well, I’m sure you can guess. But that’s a tale for another time.

And so, on a stormy Friday night, the rabbit’s foot found itself on the red-eye travelling north to Manchester airport. It’s new owner was already feeling the debilitating effects of the virus as she boarded the aircraft. One hour in, almost all of the passengers were also feeling the effects. Two hours in, and the research assistant was dead. Three hours in, and the pilot spluttered his last breath and promptly died at his controls.

The plane quickly fell from the sky and found not its intended destination, but an equally desired one. Witnesses from miles around saw the ensuing explosion. There were rumours at the time that the fireball could be seen from as far away as Bristol. What was true, what was indisputable, was that the house the aircraft landed on would never be lived in again.

Luckily for its widowed owner and her only child, known throughout the family as Baby Claire, they were out at the time.

Malcolm

This one contains a little bit of swearing, so turn away now if some colourful language offends you!

Malcolm

Some people love cars, others shoes, and some, like John here, loved dogs. Seriously. Dogs! But bullets are my thing, my favouritest things ever. I fucking love ’em.

I mean, I’ve just sent one of the little lead bastards 700 yards, bang on target. They’re awesome! I know I’m good n’all, but 700 yards? Do me a favour!

I suppose it is a little strange to be thinking these things right now. They always said I was a bit weird, always laughing at me. Especially John. Not laughing any more, are you mate?

Anyway, rest in peace, John. You and your fucking dogs.