Clopping

Clop clop clop one way.

Clop clop clop closer.

The gait was irregular, unsure.

Each strike of the foot clicked against the laminate floor and echoed about the room, through the open plan layout and to their ears.

“Is there a horse in there helping out?” He wondered aloud.

A rapid flurry of clopping followed, a head poking out from around the corner. “IT’S NOT FUNNY, DAD!”

She clopped back into the kitchen, leaving him with a glare from his wife. Her mouth’s barely suppressed mirth twitching at the corners of her lips dulled the usual impact her looks had on him.

“She needs to practice for her new job.” She chided.

“Oh shit, the pasta!” Came from the one-girl stampede in the kitchen.

“I get that, but while cooking?”

“Aw sod, the veg!” Their daughter was at a gallop now.

“She was quieter in those old clod stompers she used to wear!”

His wife sighed. “The goth days are gone now, it’s going to be all business and heels.”

“Fuck, the fish!” Their daughter swore amidst the clanging of pans and pots.

Her husband chuckled. “She’s still got the mouth of a sailor though.”

Twas the Fight Before Christmas

Author’s Note: What happens after heavy exposure to the magical warrior girl genre mixes with a darker interpretation, the festive season and a traditional Christmas classic? This. I’m not that grand at poetry, but the attempt had to be made. Seasons beatings to you all!

Twas the night before Christmas, throughout London Town
Demons were stirring, trouble about to go down.
One borough had a teenager alert to their ploy
With a swift transformation she’d bring end to their joy.
Running along with her weapon gripped in hand,
Her staff soon to swing with fury most grand.

In black boots and white pants dashed Maiden Blue
Her jacket the colour of a name-fitting hue.
Meanwhile in the streets a riot began to stir
As demons frenzied with snow on their fur.
Leaping and twirling with style oh-so-flash
A torrent of water was summoned forth to slash.

Taking that element of power in her left hand,
She washed away monsters as if grains of sand.
Her foes were many, and one called in fear,
It’s plight was answered by a villainous deer.
With antlers glowing red and a coat of pitch black,
Even the maiden faltered in her attack.

With hooves moving rapid his charge came fast,
The Maiden in dodging could barely make it past.
“On this sacred night I shall invoke a creed,
“Your defeat is at hand, I will make you bleed!”
“You talk tough tiny human, I will give you that,
“But your skin should make a most wonderful hat.”

Facing off against each other the sparks did fly
A stab of his horns, she leapt to the sky.
Across roads and roofs the battle did rage,
Like a fight straight from a comic book page.
A flick of her staff she hoped would strike,
He shouldered it wide, the blow destroying a bike.

A roar from his mouth unleashed thunderous sound,
Though hurtling back she soon came to rebound.
Blue eyes full of fury, heart pounding with hate,
Her power surged forth, one second too late.
Red lightning crackled from his mighty horns,
Sending her careening into a store full of porn.

Shaking off magazines, DVDs, and cuffs,
She winced from her landing, the impact quite rough.
Knowing she soon had to end this fight,
She gathered her power and channelled her might.
Stomping a hoof and lowering his head,
He would gore this girl and return to his bed.

The deer started his run, hurtling fast,
Not knowing what she was starting to cast.
Raising her staff and holding it ready,
Her grip was firm, her stance was so steady.
Driving the tip straight into his brain.
Water and lighting unleashing much pain.

With cries falling silent, the deer fell to its knees
With a blade made of fluid, his neck she did cleave.
From his corpse dark power rose to erupt,
To be sealed away so as not to corrupt.
Azure light thrummed about her form,
The city was safe, she returned to her norm.

There was little joy to winning when at the clock she did glance
She saw she had missed her school’s Christmas Dance.

Strike Team

The troop helicopter was hovering on flickering blades above the insertion point. With the side door opened and the cables ready to drop, the armed men and women on board readied to descend into combat.

“You know the target. Get in, grab the package and get out. You have permission to terminate anything that tries to interfere.” Their XO snarled through the comms system.

With the signal given, the team started their drop. Down cables they zipped, weapons raised and ready as they neared the hordes of enemies. The situation was chaos, the crowds riled.

Operation Black Friday had begun.

Author’s Note: Seeing as the stores in the US decide to start Black Friday sooner, I thought I’d drop this story now. A nice little drabble, now heavily discounted!

Late Night Gaming

With the bedroom door firmly shut and the lights off, the young boy could only work by the light of the muted TV. Finding his headphones, he fumbled with the back of the unit for the jack. By the light of his smartphone he sifted through his school bag for the game case a friend had given him. Deft hands worked to boot his console up and slide the disc into place, carelessly discarding the old EA Sports game into the mass of cables on the carpet. With the controller gripped firmly in hand, he hit the start button.

His hands trembled slightly as he played through the dark tale of survival horror, battling with a massive disadvantage against gruesome monsters and inhuman wretches. He clenched his jaw to avoid screaming out at the scare moments when some digital demon would leap into his field of view. As much as he wanted to put the controller down and hide under his duvet, he was equally engrossed in the events playing out.

So engrossed, he did not notice the bedroom door opening.

So absorbed, the headphones blocked the approach of the tall and cloaked figure.

So immersed, the feel of a skeletal hand touching his shoulder made him cry out in fright, dropping the pad and scrambling out of his chair to face the visage of Death looming over him, skeletal face barely visible underneath the cowl.

Drawing himself up, Death spoke chilled words: “Your punishment shall be severe.” The spectre declared, reaching forth with those flesh-absent arms swaddled in dark cloth.

 

 

Death Jr. went without his games console until Christmas morning for playing past curfew, and for playing a game his parents had not checked out first.

All That Glitters

Halloween-themed cocktails of dubious taste rushed through his system; the alcohol eroding inhibition. It took him a few drinks to get up the nerve to get on the dance floor, and a few more to start flirting. Enthusiastic if unskilled dancing made his store-rented costume, a Transylvanian Dracula in the style of Christopher Lee’s Dracula, rather stifling. Clutching his ‘Frankenvodka’ in his left hand, he weaved his way out of the crowd of costumed dancers towards the veranda for a touch of fresh Fall air, chilled by the night. It was there that the blonde-haired Dracula met beauty.

 A slender menthol cigarette hung from rose-pink lips, her skin glittering with a light dusting of foil flakes. The little black dress that clung to her in all the right places was trimmed with cobweb lace. The bob of feathered brown hair screamed Nineties chic. And better yet, not the sign of a partner anywhere. Steeling his resolve with a sip of his green drink, he made his approach.

 “I vant to hav a smoke!” He hammed it up with the lousiest accent he could, drawing a chuckle from her as he leaned against the railing she was rested on.

 “Sure thing, Count.” She grinned, plastic fangs showing. Procuring the pack of ten, three missing, from somewhere on her person, she lit another cigarette from her own before passing it across. “Old vampire meets new vampire, right?” She added with a gesture of her glitter-speckled forearms.

 “You’re not a fan of the books are you?” He asked, taking a draw.

 Dark eyes rolled back for a moment. “No, but it’s an easy costume to pull off. Rhiannon, by the way. You?”

 “Aaron, nice to meet you. Welsh, right?”

 She glanced out across the city, the tip of her cigarette flaring red as she inhaled. “Distantly now. But my family likes to recycle the old names.” With eyes darting to her drink, she gestured with her cigarette. “Is that the Frankenvodka?”

 Aaron nodded, taking a sip. “It’s… not great.”

 “It’s too dark a green for one thing. If it’s not great, why are you still drinking it though?”

 Grimacing at the after-taste, Aaron rested the glass on the railing. “Sunk costs fallacy.”

 Stubbing the remains of her cigarette out on the wrought-iron railing, she reached for his hand. “How’s a proper drink sound? My circulation’s shit, feels like my fingers are going to drop off.”

 Aaron’s hand jolted a little at her touch, the cigarette falling from his hand. Driving the heel of his shoe on the tip, he gestured towards the club. “Shall we then? You’ll warm up in no time in there.”

 “One condition.” She grinned. On noting his curious expression, she plucked the drink from his hand and took a sip. Pulling a face, she emptied the rest into a storm drain. “No Frankenvodkas.”

 “… I can live with that.”

 As the night wore on, Aaron’s stamina wore down. The sugary cocktails stopped their boost of energy to concentrate on giving him a dull and throbbing headache. His costume was damp with sweat from dancing, and he sought cool solace on the veranda once more. A large bottle of likely-overpriced mineral water was pressed into his hand by the dark haired girl he’d met there hours earlier.

 “Drink, you’ll have an awful hangover otherwise.” She commanded.

 Pinching the bridge of his nose, Aaron took a long pull from the bottle, the chilled water washing the taste of alcohol away. “I think I’m going to have an awful one of those anyway.”

 “You hold your drink well, in any case.” Rhiannon smiled, her plastic fangs still in place. “Which is why I’m going to be forwards. Want to get out of here? I live a couple of streets away, and the fridge is well-stocked for a Full English breakfast tomorrow that’ll help chase away any hang overs.”

 Aaron’s eyes lit up. “You had me interested before you even mentioned a good fry-up.”

 Arm in arm, the vampire duo pushed and dodged their way out of the nightclub and down the steps to street level. Aaron managed to avoid stumbling over on his cape but would make a mental note to forego one for next Halloween. The pair walked slowly away from the club, stepping over discarded take away boxes and more unpleasant things as they strolled through the city.

 “Imagine if we came across a real vampire while dressed up like this.” Aaron chuckled after a gulp of water. “Think we’d be able to fool one?”

 “I dunno, maybe they have some sort of secret vampire handshake, or a special passphrase.” Rhiannon laughed, her footing slightly unsteady as she dropped from the curb to the road. “It’s not far now, down Rye Way and then into Baker’s Court.” She added with pointing gestures, her glitter sparkling under the fake-tan orange of the sodium-vapour street lights.

 Slipping his hand down to her waist, Aaron cleared his throat before speaking up. “I’ve got a question… will there be fried mushrooms?”

 The burst of laughter from Rhiannon echoed through the street. “You’re already thinking about breakfast? We haven’t even gotten back to mine yet.”

 The blonde man flashed her a cheeky grin as they proceeded into Rye Way, a hand squeezing at her hip. “Well…” he remarked offhandedly, “I need to know how much of an appetite I should work up.”

 The pair’s chuckles reverberated down the alleyway as they went, the shadows behind them stirring and shifting before a lone figure made quick, silent pace after them.

 –

 Special Detective Inspector Carl North walked into Rye Alley with a face like a bleak cliff on a rainy day. Then again, that was the usual expression for the tall, middle aged police officer. Upon the discovery of the bodies the Special Circumstances Investigation Unit had quickly been assigned the case, and the team had been dispatched to the site of the murders. Digging a pack of Polo mints from his coat pockets, the greying-haired detective popped one in his mouth before moving away from the cordon to the forensic tent.

 “Doctor Fishbourne.” He called into the tent.

 “Come in Carl.” A young woman’s voice called in reply.

 Slipping past the white-fabric door, Carl looked down at the red-haired woman sat kneeling by the man’s body. For someone sitting next to a corpse with its neck mauled, she was in high spirits. “Nothing gets you down, does it, Doctor?”

 “The living tend to get me down more than the dead, Carl.” She smiled, flicking her head slightly to swing her dark red ponytail back. “And this one here is definitely dead. Shock from the blood loss, but the perimortem bruising around the mouth and the state of injury in his mouth indicates he was a screamer. From the bruising to the shoulder and around the wrist? Restrained and silenced while the killer fed.”

 “Glad I skipped breakfast.” Carl murmured.

 “You never eat breakfast to begin with. In fact, I think you skip it just so you can say that line” She grinned. “Time of death’s around the two or three AM mark, I’ll get you some better information once I’m back at my lab.”

 Letting the jibe drop, he gestured to the victim. “ID?”

 “One Aaron Mitchell, financial analyst for Stern, Wakeman and West, from the ID left on him. This was only a chomp job, they didn’t even check his pockets.” Doctor Fishbourne stated, picking up an evidence bag with various personal effects in.

 Crunching his mint between his teeth, Carl turned to look at the second body. “And her?”

 “Don’t let the outfit confuse you. No neck injuries, she had the side of her head caved in. If you weren’t sucking on mints, you’d probably smell the mixture on her neck. It’s potent.”

 “I crunched it. Repellent?”

 “It’s definitely not the latest eau de parfum. She was a vampire hunter. Not a great one, obviously.” She commented before wincing, pressing the back of her gloved hand to her forehead. “I wish this one would shut up.”

 “The woman?” Carl asked, stepping around the body of the woman to help the forensic pathologist up.

 “No, the man. He’s an effer, swearing here and there. The woman’s not talking to me at all. Spirit shock. She’s just standing over her body, watching it.” A slight glow was visible in the doctor’s eyes, a faint blue intermingled in her hazel irises.

 “Think you’ll be able to get anything out of them? Once that one’s stopped swearing and this one’s no longer catatonic?” He asked, gesturing at each body in turn.

 The doctor shook her hand uncertainly. “I’m not sure. I’ll stick about here for a little and try something, the woman didn’t have any identification on her. But I think I have something you can work with for the investigation.” Reaching into her box of collected evidence, she pulled out a bagged set of plastic teeth and a smaller pouch of glittering powder.

 “Aaron was the mark. The vamp hunter in the tracksuit must have followed them. I think she’s back in town, it’s her M.O.”

 “Rhiannon?”

 Doctor Fishbourne gritted her teeth, recoiling from some unseen assault. Carl’s hands were there to support her again, preventing the forensic medium from crumpling to the floor. “Kaitlyn?”

 “Yeah. I’m all right. Someone’s just screaming the air blue here.” She grunted, thumbing at the man’s body. “Given the tirade Aaron’s giving… I’d say we’ve made a positive ID. And our mysterious vampire hunter’s looked away from her body too.”

 “Get what you can out of these two here, then get the bodies back to the lab. There’s going to be Halloween parties for the next few days. Sooner we can pull her off the streets, the better.”

Seams

On the moon, a mirror was not a mirror. Well, it was, but rather than a silvered-glass sheet it was a digital screen utilizing cameras from various positions in the bathroom to display images of her body. And in that digital mirror, Detective Astrid van Bergen of the Unified Nations Police Force was staring at the seams on her chest.

The central join ran from the base to the top of the sternum, and then followed the path of her ribs down to her sides, then all the way up to under her armpits. From there, they looped back under her collarbone to the top part of her sternum. The dermaplast seals were tinted to that of her natural complexion, with the slight dip at the join where they met the matching internal seal running underneath.

She was thankful that she had never seen her chest cavity open. The hinges that had been placed in her ribs provided ample access to the artificial lungs and heart, just one of many units she’d had in there since she was a child. The idea of being able to see the mass of technology pushing blood through her arteries and veins… a shudder ran through her.

They weren’t the only seams on her body. One ran from the upper point of her pubic mound to a point situated just inside her navel. There was the seam around the back of her neck, where her Human-Machine Interface was situated, and matching points on her wrists for the ports there.

Other plugs dotted her body. One either side of her chest connected to her artificial lungs. The machine that attached to them sat in her bathroom alongside a portable unit. Their purpose was the removal of matter from each lung. The ones to the side of her abdomen on the other hand, were for the bio-electric generator tucked away inside her.

Orange-painted fingernails traced along those lines as she looked into her reflection, directing changes of camera angles with a mere thought. All the functions of her apartment linked wirelessly with her HMI and the neural computer interfaces tucked away in her skull. The seams there were much harder to see, hidden under brunette hair.

“Stylsistant,” she spoke, the program coming to life on the mirror screen, “can you go through my dresses and find something that shows enough skin, but hides the lines? Formal casual in style.”

“Of course, Astrid. What is the occasion you wish to dress for?” The basic AI requested.

“Works party. Dark colours, preferred.”

“The request is processing… five matches made.” The dresses appeared on screen, overlaying her reflection’s body.

“How about that one? The Candice Collection Obsidian Nymph?” The requested item appeared onscreen, taking up all the various camera angles. It moved in real time with her as she turned, the light and airy fabric trimmed with delicate lace. The cut of the neck just avoided revealing the lines meeting the top of her sternum.

“An excellent choice. Would you like suggestions to accessorize the outfit?”

“A matching clutch purse, some open-toed shoes preferably with straps, some jewellery and… hair up or down?” She asked, leaning forwards on the sink to watch the shift of the material. A simple skin-tag would prevent too much cleavage or join-lines from being flashed.

“Here is a good match for your chosen dress,” the program stated, bringing up a number of items from her wardrobe, “A bracelet on each wrist, silver, would be recommended. A matching necklace may draw attention away from your chest. Simple stud earrings would go well with your hairstyle, if you keep it down.”

That was pretty much what she had planned on dressing as, but the confirmation was always nice. “Finalize and confirm.”

“Your outfit has been confirmed. RFID tag identification is active, you will be able to see the items you have selected outlined in your wardrobe. Thank you for using Stylsistant.” The program shut itself down automatically, leaving Astrid to make her start in getting ready.

And that all began with removing one of the many bottles of Dutch Orange nail polish from her bathroom cabinet, ready to start on her toenails.

Night-time Snack

Lakes of guacamole. Rivers of salsa. Nacho trees and kettle-chip petal flowers. Shrubs lush with roasted nuts of so many varieties dotted the land. Dips, snacks and nibbles as far as the eye could see. She smiled brightly as she wandered the salty world, partaking of a bite here and a chomp there.

“At last,” she sighed happily as she ran her hand across a puddle of yeast extract, “savoury dreams.”

Parasite Control

They burst from the walls, horrid creatures of hard exoskeletons and proboscis designed for blood sucking. About the same size as a dog, the term the local tribes coined for them translated roughly as ‘blood-wraith’. Through the streets of Walkingburg dashed Weaver, in his element as an agile swordsman fighting a running battle.

When they leapt at him, his scimitar lashed out to carve chinks in their natural armour. When they curled up to roll at him, he simply danced over their balled forms. And when one blood-wraith surged up at him, it was met with a near-point blank blast from Weaver’s battered sawn-off shotgun.

“Jackass.” The blonde man muttered, ducking under a leaping bug before slicing clean through one of its leg joints. Another blast from his shotgun at the softer underside of a parasite emptied his barrels of ammunition, and started him running again.

Up close to the ruins of the town, it was clear that the sun and sand had done a number on it, without regular repair the wooden structures had been baked and sand-blasted by desert winds. The webbing of the blood-wraiths criss-crossed between broken homes and vacant businesses, and became his scimitar’s chief concern as he raced for the town square in the centre. As he neared it Weaver gathered arcane energy in his free hand, feeling the limb turn heavy and numb as power surged through it.

The torrent of light that shot up into the air hung about, glimmering a soft gold as he engaged his opponents amongst the remains of market stalls and once-picturesque benches. Outnumbered ten to one, sweat soaked his robes as he darted to and fro, sword biting into carapaces, cleaving skittering limbs and separating antenna and proboscis from their owner’s head.

“You’ll find I’m not much of a snack.” Weaver called as they amassed around him. “I’m stringy, tough, and a half-breed too. Not some gamey elf or juicy human.” He glanced up at the fading sight of his signal spell, wondering if he should cast it again. Spells weren’t his forte, and- his scimitar slashed out rapidly at the cluster of long, pointed appendages aiming to drain him dry.

Their behaviour suddenly changed. Some were turning their backs on Weaver in response to something, giving him the chance to press the attack. With both hands on his scimitar, he put power into every stroke as he advanced through his attackers to be greeted by a spear-tip rupturing through the body of a blood-wraith.

“Splendid day for a fight, eh?” A slender man called, his face angular and cheeks harshly pointed. In the desert sun, his pale complexion was made more pronounced.

“You could say that, Saddler.” Weaver grinned, getting into position by his fellow adventurer. “No one told me about the blood-wraiths.”

“And yet you charged in regardless. Most brave. Most daring. Most-”

“Stupid?” Weaver finished.

“I was going to say dashing, but I will defer to your superior judgement in this case.” The elf said with a slight smile, flicking haemolymph from his weapon as he readied it to strike out once more. Glancing across the crowd of bloodsuckers, he looked to his companion. “Twenty two left. Eleven apiece?”

“Take sixteen,” Weaver chuckled, “I wouldn’t want you to think I took your share of foes.”

The dark-haired elf pursed his lips. “Ten chore duties says that I defeat sixteen before you defeat six.”

Weaver’s scimitar flicked out at an attacker. “You’re on.”

Author’s Note: This week’s Three Word Wednesday words are Jackass, Rupture, Splendid, and continues last week’s story, Walkingburg.

Walkingburg

There was only one way to sensibly approach the abandoned city of Walkingburg, and that was head on. Having located it, Weaver guided his steed on a circular course to come at it from the front, timing the lumbering footfalls.

Walkingburg looked straight at him with one cloudy eye, the other a milky-white. Ramps lead down from the giant tortoise’s back, dragging along in the desert sand. They were as derelict as the houses and buildings atop the shell, all its inhabitants long gone now. Pieces of dried wood fell with every step, tumbling down to join the massive footprints in the sand.

Pulling his hood back, Weaver revealed his tanned face and shock of blonde hair to the beast. “It’s me.” He called across the sand, his hands by his mouth to try and channel the voice in the right direction.

Walkingburg blinked once in response, giving a slight bob of its head.

“I apologize for taking so long, but Bluethorn berries are hard to find nowadays; especially in the quantity that you need.”

Another slow blink, its eyelids lazily dragging over dry and sore lenses.

Nudging his horse forwards, Weaver spoke once more. “If you could stop and lower yourself, I could see about treating those cataracts of yours?”

The tortoise shuddered to a halt, its joints creaking as it sank to the ground with a great wheeze. As he approached, he could see the tell-tale signs of parasites infesting the ruins on the shell. Dark scabs hid where they they had been feasting on blood, and thick webbing glinted in the midday sun.

As a caution, Weaver loosened the scimitar at the side of his waist from its scabbard. “I’ll medicate later, actually.” He informed the beast, keen eyes catching the skittering movements in the parasites vast nest. “I think first, we need to deal with the pest problem.”

Author’s Note: This week’s Three Word Wednesday words were: Apologize, Derelict and Medicate.

CLI

All that remained on screen was a blinking cursor, a flicking array of white pixels in a sea of black. Around the terminal various racks of chips and PCBs laid in chunks, pulled straight from the server core and struck with fire axes. The four in the room, two scientists, a caretaker and a security guard, panted for breath.

“I can’t believe we made it,” one of the scientists gasped, doubled over. “How did Armitage gain control of the security systems?”

“Who knows what wire plugs into what around here. I tell you this though, I am not having this coming out of my pay check!” The guard snapped, axe still gripped tightly in hand, even with blood running down his forearm.

“Likewise.” The caretaker grunted, placing the CO2 fire extinguisher down. “HEY! What are you doing?!” He snarled at the other scientist who had started working on the terminal.

“I’m just checking the system! We need to be sure there’s no… we’re safe. Armitage is gone.” The scientist sighed, slightly regretful in tone. “It’s just a shell of its former self.”