The following extract is from the next Dark Legend book, Sting. Like all the other books it will first be released for the Amazon Kindle store and once I’ve paperbacked the first three this one will follow. At this point in the story; Will, Joe & Doug have gone through ‘the gate’ and have found themselves in the Worton of Will’s childhood. There are a couple of minor spoilers for the other books in here but not many.
We picked our way through the ruins of the hotel, climbing down rotten staircases and dropping though holes in the floorboards, occasionally being showered by shafts of light breaking through the crumbling walls, before we came out the front door onto the cold and desolate high street. We started to make our way along it towards the bridge and the river. Everything was silent and deathly and it disturbed me a great deal. Although I was in a whole other dimension everything looked almost as it had done before the war. The shops were a little different but the buildings were the same, if a lot more run down and a lot shabbier. It was all so familiar but at the same time completely alien. In our Worton this was now either rubble or had been rebuilt and to see it all put back again was jarring. I wandered along, looking at all the shops and trying to guess what they might have sold. The windows were broken and all the goods looted or rotted away but there were a few hints; fallen mannequins and plastic cases lying around their frontages as well as some faded names above the doorways. Most familiar of all was the Wonderland Toy Store, in the same place and with the exact same wording in the exact same style across the frontage. Even that stupid alleyway at the side was there, exactly as it was on that long ago day when my life changed forever. The place was exactly the same as when I had last passed it by and that chilled me to the bone.
The only building I didn’t recognize or find familiar in some way was at the end of the high street facing the river, where in our world the Buffalo club had been sited. It looked to have been all steel and plate glass, one of those modernist buildings with no substance or style to them, but now the glass was all broken and the steel twisted out of place and wracked by rust and decay. Even the minor rim of white lime render that had surrounded the glass was flaking, revealing bleak concrete blocks underneath. Some of that decay was no doubt due to the end of the world but according to Will the place had been rotten and falling apart for as long as he could remember so I couldn’t actually tell which bits of decay had been caused by the end of the world and which had been decayed before.
Passing over the river I thought that the bridge felt unsafe. Looking over the edge I saw the waters below us were heavily silted and a dangerous lemon colour. Again, everything on the far side was much the same as I had once known it although in this case the buildings were far older than they should have been. The walls were bending outwards, the slates falling from the roofs and the grounds in need of some attention. Joe insisted that we take a short detour in order to see what the house we currently lived in was like. Will got arsey about it but Joe was insistent and we spent about ten minutes poking about in the ruins. It was as though the place had been empty for decades. There were piles of used needles in the corners and a fair bit of graffiti splattered across bare, unpapered walls. The place reeked of abandonment and neglect, more so than any of the other buildings we came across. Those all had bit of furniture and displaced possessions lying about, the signs of a sudden abandonment but this building was entirely empty apart from the needles. It had been left to die long before the apocalypse.
We kept heading towards Beiderbecke college and soon after leaving the equivalent of our home we found ourselves, all unanimously, stopping outside the door of a bold, godly looking Methodist church. It was as if we were all thinking the exact same thing, that this place might offer us some kind of shelter. The door was closed but it wasn’t locked. Will tried it and it opened with a loud creak. It was so loud that the noise echoed around the street and we all looked at each other worriedly.
“That’s going to alert the graffe,” Joe hissed.
“Yes… So get inside so that they don‘t see us,” Will pushed.
The church was well lit and the large, single window above the alter at the back was still in place, not an inch of it broken. Unusually, the entire place appeared not to have been disturbed or damaged in any way. All the pews were still there, as was the altar and all the usual Methodist church paraphernalia. That scared me but I didn’t say anything for the fear that Will would reveal something that might make it worse, something like that the window wasn’t broken and it wasn’t disturbed or damaged because of some overly religious graffe who were using it as a nest. But there were no signs of that either. According to Will, who has been in plenty of them, graffe nests are mostly clean although when they first take a place they like to make it their own and decorate it with graffiti and remove anything left over by humans, usually by breaking it or setting it on fire. All of that stuff in the church should have been in an ashy junk pile somewhere, not still in place. There was definitely something odd about the place and I didn’t like it. And I was still hungry and it didn’t look like we would find any food here either.
“If we’re settling down here shouldn’t one of us go and look for some food?” I voiced.
“No need,” Will said, pointing up to the roof where I saw several pairs of beady, pigeon eyes watching from the eaves.
“And how do you propose to get them down?”
“Go on… Shoot one and bring all the graffe rushing in here,” Joe smiled. Will eyeballed him cruelly.
“I’m not going to shoot one… You’re going to lure one down and catch it whilst Doug and I build a fire!”
“With what?” I found myself questioning. I was ignored.
So whilst Joe tried to come up with a way to lure the pigeons down I scouted around the church for some wood or something that might be useful in starting a fire. Will, claiming he needed rest after his beating, sat on the floor and brooded. I found a sort of vestry type room and there were a few chairs that I thought might burn if I could break them apart. There was also a chest of drawers that seemed fairly breakable and, happily, an unopened and perfectly drinkable bottle of wine.
“I thought Methodists were supposed to be tee-total,” I puzzled when I came back to Will carrying the bottle and two chairs. Joe was hanging around the back of the church, still trying to figure a way to get the pigeons down.
“Yeah… And religious people are never hypocritical,” he arsed. I took one of the chairs and started to pull it apart. It was easy. The parts just came away in my hand.
“There used to be this priest who came to my primary school,” Will began to explain. “Hockney I think his name was… It was a secular school so really they shouldn’t have let priests anywhere near the place but anyway… He always used to go on and on and on about how sex was dirty and that it should only be done in a loving, god gifted marriage…”
“Cut to ten years later and you’re the biggest man-whore in town,” Joe laughed, now tossing a coin up and down in his hand.
“Oy… For your information the last person I shagged was Eliza and that was a year ago!”
“Doesn’t make you any less of a man-whore though. Remind me how many women you shagged in the space of a four month period?” Joe began to target one of the pigeons with the coin. I looked at Will expectantly but he shied away.
“Go on, how many?” I urged.
“I don’t know… I didn’t count…”
“Take a rough guess.” Joe span his coin into the air and missed the pigeon. It fluttered into the air for a second and then landed back on its roost, probably having a good laugh at his expense. The coin clattered to the floor and Joe went to collect it. Will opened the bottle of wine and took a swig before answering. Even amongst his two most trusted friends he needed Dutch courage when it came to discussing sex.
“I couldn’t say… I know I got through at least two packs.”
“Ok… So how many condoms in a standard pack? Twelve? That’s at least twenty four people if you used one for each.”
“I got these off the internet and there were quite a few more than twelve… I think they were sixties.” I stared at him in horror.
“You bought condoms off the internet? Is that even safe?”
“Yeah? Why wouldn’t it be? I never had a problem…”
“Unless one of them got pregnant and didn’t tell you… And with the amount of women you shagged…”
“Let’s say one per condom so that’s one hundred and twenty people you shagged at a minimum!” Will stared at me, horrified. I smirked back.
“With the start of the war and the collapse of civilization abortion would have been virtually impossible so that means, taken at a very rough guess, there might be at least six or seven little legends hanging around, minimum.” Will was not impressed with Joe’s maths.
“Can I get on with my story?” he griped. Joe shrugged and began to target the pigeon again. “Thank you… So this priest used to go on and on about how casual sex outside marriage was a bad thing. Well… A few years later he was exposed as a massive pervert. He was photographed not only outside a lap dancing club but also picking up prostitutes and getting off with random women down alleyways. He lost his job but that’s not my point… My point is that he was a dirty hypocrite… Said one thing, did another.”
“There are too many of his sort these days,” Joe mourned, firing his coin at the pigeon and missing for a second time. Will and I both nodded.
My having achieved the disasemblance of the first chair, I started on the second whilst Will arranged the pieces of the first into a fire.
“So how many bastards do you have?” I asked mockingly after a few moments of silence.
“None,” Will snapped back.
“Well you did say you bought your condoms off the internet and shagged one hundred and twenty people in four months…”
“Can we shut up about this?”
“No!” Joe again shot his coin at the pigeons and was, amazingly, successful this time. The coin caught the pigeon square on the head, knocking it from the eaves and causing it to splat down on the hard floor below, it’s limbs mangled and broken. “Yes… Got it!” Joe grinned, swaggering to the pigeon and lifting it up by the claws.
“Now catch another one while I pluck it,” Will ordered, reaching out as Joe came over and handed him the pigeon.
“I bet one of them is called Will,” I said spontaneously as he began to wrench the feathers from the dead bird.
“One of who? The pigeons?” Will acted confused though he knew what I was going on about and he knew damn well that I meant his army of little legends.
“More than one I’ll bet,” Joe added, aiming for a second pigeon and hitting it first time. It died just like the first.
“Is there a female variant of Will?” I questioned. “If one of them’s a girl she’ll be called that!”
“She doesn’t exist so she isn’t called that,” Will denied. Joe sat down next to him with the second dead pigeon and began to pull the feathers from it in the same way as Will was doing with his.
“Well if you don’t have any bastards then you must have some kind of venereal disease.” Will looked at Joe with disgust.
“No… I haven’t. I know I haven’t because I’ve had a complete medical examination twice since I last did it. Once with the police and once with the army and both times I was completely clean.” That wasn’t strictly true but I let his lie drop.
“If you did have any children,” Joe began to spout…
“Which I don’t…”
“But say you did… How would your DNA affect it?”
“My DNA is nothing special on its own Joe… It makes me just like you or Doug, except a bit faster and stronger…’ And older in body and shorter lived and more likely to have debilitating health problems, which he unsurprisingly failed to mention.
“It was used to help create the graffe though!”
“Yeah… USED! It might be nothing special but it still has bits that make it different enough from regular DNA. And those bits may not even be relevant when it comes to having kids. Hailey is completely human so any kids we have will only have half my DNA as is. There’s an incredibly strong chance that none of the different stuff will get passed on.” Joe and I both smirked at him.
“You said HAILEY,” Joe teased. Will tried to look shocked though he definitely knew what he had said. He flustered for a moment, trying to wriggle out of the dilemma.
“There’s no denying it now mate… You’ve just said you want to have kids with her… You have to confess you’re in love,” I told, slipping the knife in further.
“And I will… When I’m ready,” he flustered. “It’s just… Right now… With NIRA and the graffe and…”
“Stop making excuses,” Joe warned. “If you don’t tell her the next time you see her then me and Doug will do it for you… We’ll say you’re too shy to do it yourself!”
“And we’ll tell her what you’ve just said about wanting to have kids with her,” I grinned.
“I never said I wanted to have kids with her… All I said was that if we have kids they’ll only have half my DNA and maybe not the different bits. She might not even want children for all I know.”
“It isn’t a question of if she wants kids,” I reckoned. “As I see it there are only two Morfasson left. Do you want to see your name die out completely?”
“No… But forgetting the fact that it was practically dead anyway and my brother… Even if Hailey and I had children the name might die out… They might all be girls.”
“Not going to happen mate. You’re a Morfasson and girls are an incredibly rare phenomenon in your family. There have only been four of them in the last three hundred years. Your great grandfather had eight boys and not one girl!”
“And what if we only have one child and it’s a girl?”
“Again… Not likely,” Joe scratched. “Morfasson broods usually end up being on the large side.”
“And being a twin you’re also more likely to have twins yourself… Double the chances of a boy,” I threw in. Will looked at me as though I had just stepped in dog shit but Joe jumped up, howling with delight.
“Hoo hoo,” he cried. “So all those little bastards floating around could be twins!”
“I have no little bastards,” Will growled at him before staring at the prepared hearth. Then he spoke again. “Ok… I’ll do it. I know it’s unfair given the state of the world but if it will shut you two up I will tell Hailey the truth.”
“Thank god!” I cried with relief.
“But there’s a catch,” Will smiled at Joe, wickedly and maliciously. Joe backed away from him, scared. “You have to ditch Lydia.” Joe nearly wretched.
“WHAT? WHY? WHY SHOULD I DITCH LYDIA JUST SO YOU CAN GET OFF WITH HAILEY?”
“Because you aren’t happy with her Hamlet,” he responded calmly. “She’s making you miserable and you deserve better.”
“That’s easy for you to say… You currently don’t have to put up with a girlfriend!”
“You don’t put up with a girlfriend,” I argued. “You love them… And yes, there may be arguments but if you find yourself miserable and just ‘putting up’ with her then for god’s sake man, something must be wrong.” Joe snorted.
“What do you know? What do either of you know?”
“Eliza!” Will announced. “You remember what she did? She cost me Alison and she threw Dan’s broken heart into the bargain. I could have killed her for what she did. But I forgave her. I forgave her because I loved her. Then she went a step too far. I could have tried again with her but I didn’t. Know why? Because there was no point. What she did would always be hanging over us and it would have made us miserable. I wouldn’t have loved her as I did… I would have, as you said, been ‘putting up’ with her.”
“If there’s a cloud over your relationship, and you can’t put a brolly up, get somewhere dry before it rains,” I philosophised. Will gave my wisdom an approving nod. Joe just hunched up and began angrily pulling the feathers from his pigeon.
“I’ve been thinking of dumping her since before Christmas,” he confessed eventually, his eyes red but tearless. “I’m tired of her. She just makes me so… so… angry! She tries to control everything… My wardrobe, my diet… I mean… When was the last time we had a proper lad’s night out?”
“We’re having one now aren’t we?” Will smiled. Joe couldn’t help but giggle.
“Yeah I suppose we are… But she won’t let me just hang with you guys like I want to. Take last week when you two and… When you two and Dast went to the pub for a drink. It was just a drink and I wanted to come but Lydia got all arsey over it. It’s different when she want’s to go on a girly night though.”
“Love is a two way street… It should be a two way street. But mate… Lydia’s dragging you around a one way system!”
“I know. I was going to end it and then Runcorn happened and she had all that trouble and it seemed heartless and…”
“Sometimes you have to be heartless Joe… You can’t put it off forever.” Joe nodded slowly.
“I’ll do it when we get back. No point holding it off.”
“If it helps I can put off telling Hailey the truth to give you time to get over it,” Will offered. Joe shook his head.
“I don’t mind… It’ll be a relief to be rid of her to be honest with you. I’m not going to cry over it!”
“You know he’ll be having incredibly noisy sex don’t you? It will be like he is rubbing it in your face.” Will humphed indignantly at my comment and Joe shrugged.
“He’d be loudly wanking in the bathtub without telling her so I don’t see what difference an actual woman would make.”
“Honestly… You two are making me out to be some kind of sexual fiend,” Will bitched.
“You are a sex fiend,” I shot back, laughing.
“Yeah but when we get back home I’ll be the one with a girlfriend!” That was below the belt, really below the belt, but I refrained from punching him due to his condition. Instead I put what wood I had gathered from the second chair to one side of me and took my frustrations out by lighting the fire. It went up in seconds and it felt good to watch it come to life.
“Did you ever have anyone before Amanda?” Joe asked, staring into the flames.
“Of course…” Did Joe not know me at all? “There were a few girls actually… My first was a girl called Elsie. She was in the class above me in primary school and on my first day I saw her in the yard and decided that I’d take her some flowers. I then got a right ticking off by the dinner ladies for ripping the flower beds up. I tried to explain but they wouldn’t have it and they took the flowers away. Next day I picked some flowers from a garden on the way to school and kept them in my bag till lunchtime. They weren’t in good condition by the time I gave them to her but the sentiment was there… We went out for two weeks before she told me she didn’t like me anymore and broke my heart. I cried all afternoon… And then all the next day because I saw her holding hands with some other boy from my class. I met her again years later in some club… She didn’t remember me so I asked about her first boyfriend. And she said him! Him… The guy she’d left me for. So I naturally decided to get my revenge by leading her on and then leaving with her best friend.”
“Harsh,” Will opined. It was true, it was harsh, but the bitch had deserved it.
“When Greg first told me he was going out with Eliza I got jealous,” Joe then piped up. “I got so jealous that I didn’t have a girlfriend that I went and asked out any girl I could find. The first three laughed in my face and then they started spreading it to everybody else in the school… Then this girl called Crystal saw me crying and took pity on me. She said she’d go out with me and I jumped at it. I was cock of the walk for three days…”
“And the rest of the time you were just a cock!” Joe struck Will on the arm for his jibe and Will laughed it off.
“But then all the other girls who’d laughed at me changed their minds and wanted to go out with me… And as I had my pick I decided I’d go out with all of them. I had about five girlfriends at once.”
“And then it all blew up in your face,” I smirked. Joe nodded.
“They all dumped me after about three hours, figuring I was cheating on them.”
“You were,” Will pointed out. Joe gazed into the flames solemnly and then a smile crept across his face.
“I suppose the only consolation is that I never got anyone pregnant!” Will jumped to his feet and wrestled Joe to the ground whilst I laughed at them.
Our conversation carried on in much the same way, talking of love and girlfriends and our families whilst we proceeded to cook and eat our pigeon.
The Dark Legend series is currently available on Amazon Kindle Store (links on the releases page) and the first book, Spawn, will soon be released in paperback from CreateSpace.
The above image is from the Manchester Evening News.