The Man Who Sold His Son – Preview

The following passage is an excerpt from my upcoming 5th novel, The Man Who Sold His Son. I’d previously placed this on the back-burner after writing the first third of the book, as dEaDINBURGH: Book 1 was itching my head. At present, I’m writing this as my main project whilst working on dEaDINBURGH: Book 2

The Man Who Sold His Son is a welcome return to my native Bellshill. The following excerpt is pre-edit.

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Bellshill, Lanarkshire

 

Scotland

 

2055

 

1

 Alex sped the along Bellshill Main Street on his vintage Kawasaki Ninja enjoying the freedom of being on his bike. It was past midnight and a warm July night so he had the roads to himself. Hardly anyone drove these days, most choosing to use The Tubes, and those who did invariably drove those soulless hydrogen-powered cart monstrosities. Alex couldn’t imagine being without his bike. Riding his Kawasaki was more or less the only freedom he had these days, but that was ok. Life was good in so many ways. Continuing along the long road, he glanced up at the windows of his duplex noting the living room’s light flickering and that the light in Tommy’s room was on. Damn it, Sarah!

At the end of a long shift in the hospital the last thing Alex needed was another argument with his wife. Why couldn’t she just be a little kinder to the boy?

Disappearing down his building’s ramp, he noticed the underground garage doors sliding up in response to his bikes’ approach and gunned it, ducking slightly as he impatiently sped under the ascending metal. Riding the elevator to their duplex apartment on the twentieth floor of the Sir Matt Busby building, Alex removed his helmet and steeled himself for the inevitable confrontation that awaited him two hundred feet above. Forcing himself to breathe deeply, Alex thought of his grand-father.

Tom Kinsella had been a Bellshill resident but had moved to New York in adulthood. Tom had fathered twin girls, Natalie and Patricia. Patricia was Alex’s Mother and currently on vacation in Cornwall. In her fifties the relative warmth suited her and the beautiful scenery aided in her day job. Like her father, Tom, Patricia was a writer and had returned to live in her father’s home country whilst pregnant with Alex.

Alex had been lucky enough to spend his younger years splitting his time between Scotland and his grandfather’s home in New York City. Of course this was when people still travelled to other countries relatively cheaply and freely. These days, only the very rich could afford overseas travel and as a consequence, almost no-one left their country of birth anymore. Alex hadn’t seen his Grandfather in years, although they spoke often over the Holo-Net.

Tom Kinsella was the calmest, most composed man Alex had ever known. Having lost his wife in his twenties, Tom had raised the twin girls in New York and seemed completely incapable of getting angry or flustered. He was a terrific Grandfather and entirely Alex’ hero; which is why he’d named his son for the man. Speaking to, or even thinking of, his Granda Tom always helped Alex to compose himself.

The shudder of the elevator, followed by a ping shook Alex from his reverie and prompted him to step out onto the plush carpet of the twentieth floor. Each floor was identified by a different décor. Every time Alex stepped out onto the blue of the twentieth floor, he gave silent thanks that he didn’t live on the fifteenth, the orange floor.

 

The Sir Matt Busby Busby building was a luxury apartment complex built on the site of a long-demolished leisure centre. The building had been named for a 20th Century football manager, born in Bellshill, and was the new centre of the once-again affluent town. In years gone past Bellshill had been an impoverished, ex-mining, ex-steelworks town but had benefited from a decision to base Synthi-Inc’s global headquarters in the now resurgent town.

On the verge of being granted city status, Bellshill had expanded exponentially to become a global hub and mecca for biological and reproductive research. Research labs provided skills, education and employment for the thousands of locals and hundreds of thousands of new settlers the town had attracted. Several new hospitals had also been built in recent years, including Alex’ employer, the Ally McCoist Clinic for Reproductive Health, again named after a former footballing native. The locals had loved football at one time but with most of the population now composed of Synthi-kids and adults, the desire, passion and drive that made people follow or play for football clubs was absent and the game had died.

 

Alex breathed deeply, expelling any residual anger he’d felt on noticing the lights on in two separate rooms in his home, pressed his thumb to the doors’ scanner and gently pushed open the aluminium door. Striding past the living room on his right, Alex ignored Sarah’s half-hearted Hi and continued to the staircase at the end of the hallway. Ascending the spiral staircase, he reached the upper floor and lightened his step to approach the door to Thomas’s room. Grimacing at the noise as he creaked the door open three inches or so, Alex poked his nose in, checking if his son was asleep. Although there was a light on in the room, Thomas often fell asleep with a light on, a habit left over from infancy.

Alex eyes followed a trail of books along the floor leading towards Tommy’s bed. All titles well in advance of his ten years, the books were creased and well read. Thomas had always refused to use an E-reader or tablet, preferring real books. He took after Tom, his great-grandfather and a man he’d never met in person, in this regard. With his thick blonde hair and green eyes, Tommy looked like Tom as well. Alex smiled as he raised his eyes to see his son sitting up in his bed, back to the wall, knees bent in a makeshift book rest.

“Hey, Dad.”

Smiling broadly, Alex entered the room, closing the door behind him.

“Hey, Son. What you reading?”

Thomas lifted the hardback edition, showing his dad the cover.

“Rot and Ruin? Great book. I read that when I was a kid. Isn’t it a little younger than your usual choice?”

Tommy nodded “Yeah, but the writer’s amazing, Dad.”

Alex nodded in agreement. Propping one buttock on the bed he ruffled his son’s hair. “You been in here long tonight?”

Tommy’s eyes darted back to his book. “Na. Only for half an hour. Just wanted some quiet time, to read.” He said quietly.

Alex could tell he was lying, and Tommy knew it. Alex always saw the lies in his son’s eyes, but neither pushed the issue any further.

Tommy looked up at his father. “It’s alright, Dad. I like to read alone…..Please don’t argue with Mum again.” He pleaded.

Thomas’s eyes had filled a little.

Alex allowed the rising anger to dissipate and smiled warmly at his boy. “Tell me about your day at school.”

Tommy threw his book onto the floor and launched himself into an animated account of his school day. Alex listened carefully as his son described, his various classes, and friends and passed along some jokes from his mates. Thomas ended up with hiccoughs from laughing so much. When Tommy had finished and Alex had caught his breath from laughing, he raised an eyebrow and asked the boy. “Any arguments today?”

Thomas nodded.

“Mr Chase again?” he asked.

“Yeah, but he wouldn’t listen to me, Dad. I had a good point to make.”

Alex nodded. You know how proud I am of you, Don’t you?”

Tommy nodded back at his father.

“I love that you’ve got your own ideas that you think for yourself, but whilst you’re at school, you have to be careful not to be too…” Alex searched for the word, “…spirited.”

They’d had the same conversation dozens of times before. Thomas was such a livewire, so bright, athletic and full of life. It crushed Alex to dampen the boy, but it wasn’t good to shine too brightly in this modern world.”

Thomas’s eyes filled with hurt, the same way they always did when Alex had to reluctantly rein him in. “Alright, Dad. I’ll try harder.”

Alex winced. He hated making his son hide his talents, but what else could he do? Smiling again, he told Thomas. “I love you more than sausages.”

Tommy laughed. “Daaad.” He groaned.

Alex repeated “I love you more than sausages.”

Thomas’s cheeks flushed red. They’d played this game since Tommy had been a toddler. It was just embarrassing now. But still…

“I love you more than chips.” He replied, bringing a toothy smile form Alex.

“I love you more than cheesecake.” Alex grinned, initiating a ping pong of I love you more thans for a few minutes. After a few rounds Tommy yawned, signalling that his patience had run out.

Alex waited for him to lie down and then tucked him in. Sitting himself next to his son, he stroked his hair for a while. Tommy, with drooping, sleepy eyes, turned to face him. “Dad, I do love you, and Mum. I just wish that she…liked me a bit more.”

Anger and pain lanced Alex’ heart but he didn’t allow it to show in his eyes. “She does love you, you know that, Tommy. She’s just…got her own way of showing it.”

Alex searched his son’s face. The kid didn’t believe a word of it, but pretended to be comforted, for his Dad’s sake. It broke Alex heart to watch his son protect his feelings in this way. He reached out and tugged Tommy’s right ear.

“G’night, Bacon ears.” He laughed.

Tommy grabbed his Dad’s nose and yanked. “Night, Sausage Nose.”

With that he rolled over and Alex quietly left his room. Anger building once again, he made for the living room and another fight.

 

2

Sarah sat with her back to the door, vape-pod pressed to her mouth, immersed in whatever shitty Holo-Soap she was addicted to that month and sunken deep into the memory-foam sofa. One hand tapped the thin screen of her tablet, scanning the Holo-Net. The light he’d seen from outside the building was, as he’d guessed, the flicker from the Holo-Projector filling the room. Listening to the click-whizz of the vape-pod as she inhaled the last of its contents, he allowed his anger to rise.

Alex sat in an armchair opposite her, an old chair. The sort with springs and tears and history and flaws. It’d come from his Grandfather’s childhood house on Community Road. Covered in coffee-rings, it reeked of cigarettes and was one of his favourite things. Alex Mum had wanted to throw it out when the house was being demolished. He’d practically ripped it from the house in his eagerness to preserve that one, simple tie to Tom.

Sarah tossed the empty vape-pod onto the coffee table, where it bounced once and clattered to a rest against four other empty pods. It was a defiant gesture and she glared at Alex for a reaction as she threw it.

Alex held onto his anger, controlling and supressing the need to roar at her.

“Have a good day?” Sarah sneered at him and began laughing at her own question?”

“Not as good as you.” Alex nodded at the pile of pods on the table.

“Och that’s a shame” she giggled. “You should relax a wee bit, treat yourself to a vape.”

Alex ignored her provocation. “How long has Tommy been in his room while you’ve been sitting in here vaped out your head?”

Sarah laughed again. God, he hated her sometimes. At least he wished he hated her. The truth was that he loved her, God help him. His life would be a damn site easier if he could hate Sarah.

“It’s perfectly legal, Alexander.” She tried to look nonchalant, but the expression came across twisted and dull.

“Aye, it’s legal, but that boy in there thinks you hate him. Why can’t you spend some time with him? Show him you do care. Is this shit so important? More important than your son?” Alex lashed out with his foot, sending the table and the pile of vape-pods flying across the room.

Sarah laughed harder than ever. Rising to her feet she staggered unsteadily over to the table and gave it an exaggerated, slapstick kick, mocking Alex.

Alex felt a deep stab of shame at losing his temper, but was struggling to keep it in check again already due to her nastiness. He composed himself and sat back into his chair, leaving her to dance foolishly, kicking the vape-pods around as she went.

Suddenly Sarah stopped her horrific dance and turned to stare at him. Eyes like stone she said, “You know I never wanted him.”

Smiling once more, she continued, “We agreed if I had him, nothing had to change. I’m a young woman. I just want to enjoy myself.”

She staggered back to her sofa and retrieved another vape-pod from her handbag.

“I’m just having fun. Don’t I deserve some fun?” She’d started crying. There was no talking to her when she’d been vaping and he’d promised Thomas that he wouldn’t fight with her tonight. Alex left her to it and headed to their bedroom.

 

Lying on top of the covers freshly showered and in boxers and a white T, he sighed heavily and reached to his bedside table to pick up their wedding image. Holding the light plastic frame at its corners, Alex looked sadly at the image of him and Sarah smiling on their wedding day. Alex hated these moving Holo-images and much preferred the older, still photographs of his childhood. He hated the way the Holos captured and projected so accurately the emotions of the day. Alex’ smile was beaming from the Holo with pride and happiness. Sarah smiled broadly also, but her smile never reached her eyes. Even then she’d begun to grow colder.

 

Childhood friends, he and Sarah had lived in houses across the road from each other in an older part of Bellshill. At three years old they’d gone to nursery together. At five, primary school. At twelve, high school. Throughout their childhood and adolescence they’d been best friends, each and every life event had been marked by photos and then Holos, featuring both of them. They’d come as a pair their whole lives. Eventually, they exchanged their virginities and conceived Thomas on the first go.

Sarah was almost three months pregnant by the time they’d realised and then accepted that they were one of the rare few. A couple who could produce offspring in the old way. Sarah felt that she’d been cursed and wondered at what she’d done to deserve such a cruel outcome to her first sexual encounter. Alex was shocked, but despite what was becoming fashionable, despite the extra work and responsibilities and perhaps persecution having their child would bring into their lives. For him, the introduction of a child into their lives felt right somehow. He felt like a father from the moment he discovered the unlikely conception.

At eighteen, Sarah had been overly concerned with what her peers and her parents’ friends thought of her pregnancy. People generally made one of two assumptions. Either that she’d planned conception and used the synthi-sperm procedure, or that she was having a random. Most assumed she’d conceived with Synthi-sperm and whilst they frowned at her having made the decision so young, most mothers were in their forties, they simply saw her as a silly wee lassie who’d been a little stupid and headstrong. Sarah was happy enough, for the most part, to let people believe that she’d gotten pregnant deliberately but it galled her to be set apart from her peers who slowly trickled away into the past and stopped calling her.

As well as her social circle depleting, her thoughts were consumed with the delivery of their baby. She was terrified at the thought and frequently had panic attacks in response to Holo-Shows about birth or during visits to the Pre-natal clinic. Alex had tried his best to put her mind at ease, but really, what could he say? He had no more idea than she did about what the delivery suite would hold for her.

Sarah had taken time to adjust, but had eventually become more positive through the course of the pregnancy. Then, along came Thomas.

Thomas’s birth had been every bit as difficult as Sarah had feared. After a very dangerous assisted delivery, she’d been left badly damaged, physically and emotionally. Her body of course, healed over the weeks and months that followed, but her mental health had deteriorated badly and had never recovered.

She seemed to blame their new son for the manner and difficulty of his arrival, and frequently referred to him as it. Alex ignored the remarks and remained positive. Sarah worked very hard at being a mother, but it was obvious that a sense of duty drove her. She took no pleasure in her baby and clearly resented him and the responsibilities he’d brought. Sarah couldn’t bond with the boy. The daily monotony of nappies, bottles, washing, cleaning, crying, screaming. Lather, rinse, repeat. It chipped away at her self-esteem and her ability to remain positive. She couldn’t see the moment for what it was; a moment. A period of hardship that wouldn’t last forever. She couldn’t see an end to the hell she found herself in and cried for her dreams of a different life. She simply wasn’t capable of loving her baby enough to keep moving forward.

Alex juggled work, his studies and spent as much time as possible at home. Eventually, they agreed that Sarah would be happier getting out to work and Alex should drop one of his jobs to stay at home and look after Thomas more often. Alex hoped that Sarah’s escape from the Groundhog Day nature of being a parent to a young, demanding baby would help her lift her spirits and appreciate the now more limited time she spent with the baby. Instead, Alex’ bond with their son grew stronger and hers disappeared altogether.

As the years had passed and their lives moved on, more and more, Sarah had sunk into depressive routines and habits. She stopped working and began vaping two years ago. Recently she’d moved from being indifferent to Thomas to being openly hostile.

Sarah rarely left their apartment and was so desperately sad and angry all of the time Alex didn’t recognise her anymore. She’d isolated herself so completely from him and from their son that the gulf between them seemed impossible to cross. Alex had tried desperately to snap her out of the blackness she was in, but caring about her, loving her, had become more and more difficult because of how she’d been treating their son. She obviously and openly blamed him for everything she perceived as absent from or wrong with her life. Alex couldn’t find a trace of his childhood friend in her eyes anymore, but was determined to keep trying to bring her back to her old self and shield Thomas form her illness.

He picked up the Holo of their wedding day and watched his former-self hug and smile the woman he loved. He smiled sadly as he recalled that they’d had a huge row the previous night. I’m only seventeen, Alex. I’m not ready to be a mother. Especially to a kid I didn’t plan. They call them Randoms now, you know.

Alex recalled every exchange from that night. In the early hours they’d argued, screamed at each other. They’d both cried and eventually he’d convinced Sarah that having their baby and getting married was the right thing to do. Not just for the baby, but for both of them also. He had it all planned; Medical school, two jobs to support them whilst he studied. He promised her that they could make it work, that they’d be happy. He’d place his hand over the barely visible bump in her abdomen where their child grew and begged her to trust him. By morning she’d agreed to try.

 

Alex placed the Holo-Frame face-down on his bedside cabinet and turned out the light. He smiled to himself in the darkness. I’ll take them to the beach tomorrow. Yellowcraigs Beach in Gullane. Granda’s beach.


3

 Thomas had found himself a couple of friends and had been playing handball at the edge of the sea. As usual, his peers’ gameplay was a little gentile for his liking and he’d been trying in vain to liven things up. The kids he was playing with didn’t have the same competitive urge and soon lost interest in the game. The group of new friends were sitting burying each other’s feet in the sand. Eventually Thomas got bored and walked off towards the sea to skim some smooth pebbles out across the still, gentle surface of the Firth of Forth. Alex watched his restless, outgoing son and smiled. He didn’t bother turning to share the moment with Sarah, experience had taught him that even if she had been watching, which she wasn’t, she didn’t feel the same swell in her heart as he when watching Tommy at play.

It didn’t matter. It was a beautiful day and Sarah looked peaceful for the first time in months. Whilst he lay on his back, propped up on his elbows, she had rested her head across his lap and was laid face-up, eyes closed soaking up the sun’s rays. Alex played absent-mindedly with her hair and sighed in satisfaction. It was the most intimate they’d been in months and warmed his core more completely then the day’s beautiful sunshine ever could. This trip had been a good idea. Days like today had been what he’d had in mind when he imagined his future as an eighteen year old new father.

 

Suddenly aware that he hadn’t seen Tommy for a minute or two Alex sat lazily, rising from his elbows carefully, so as to not disturb Sarah. Unable to see Tommy straight away, he shaded his eyes with his hand and scanned along the beachfront. In bright blue long shorts, Thomas shouldn’t have been hard to spot but Alex couldn’t see him anywhere around. Sarah groaned and rolled off him as he rose to his feet, the beginnings of panic starting to surge through him. Still more or less calm, he walked quickly to the spot he’d last seen Thomas throwing stones from and began scanning up and down the beach and along the water’s edge once more.

“Thomas!” he yelled up the beach before sprinting along the waters’ edge, splashing and pushing his way along the shore.

Alex made his way east until he reached the furthermost point of the beach, scanning the depth of the beach and fifty feet into the sea as he went before turning around and sprinting Westward. After spending thirty minutes frantically running, searching and calling for his son, Alex made his way to where Sarah still lay. Grabbing her by the arm, he shook and pulled her up onto her feet.

“Have you seen Thomas?”

“Whaaat?” she replied, groggily. She’d been vaping. Whilst he’d been searching for Thomas, she’d been getting high.

“Thomas! Have you seen him?”

Sarah waved him off dismissively and sat back down.

“He’s over there playing.” She slurred pointing to the place where he’d been playing handball an hour before.

“He’s gone, Sarah.” Alex knelt in front of her, calmed himself as much as possible and took her face in his hands forcing her to look at and focus on him.

“Sarah, I can’t find him. We need to call the police.”

Sarah blinked dumbly a few times and lay on her side before replying.

“Och, he’ll be fine.”

Alex swore loudly at her, drawing the attention of a family nearby.

Turning around, he’d decided to search the beach one more time when suddenly he spotted the blue shorts he’d spent the last hour looking for.

 

Thomas was strolling casually towards his father accompanied by a slim, middle-aged man. The man looked familiar and was dressed in a very expensive looking suit, despite the weather and location. He had his right arm around Thomas, guiding him towards his Dad. The pair of them looked relaxed and had clearly just shared a joke. Alex darted over to his son, went down on one knee and pulled him in close.

“Where the hell did you get to, Thomas? We’ve been worried sick.”

Thomas looked over his dad’s shoulder at his mother who was slumped on a beach towel, blissfully unaware of his presence. He raised an eyebrow challenging his Dad.

Alex followed the boy’s eyes and nodded, “Well, I’ve been worried sick. Where have you been?”

Tommy shrugged.

“I just took a walk along the beach. Ran into Mr Ennis and had a chat with him in the ice cream bar. He’s a nice man, Dad. I know what people I shouldn’t talk to, I’m not stupid.”

Alex was less than impressed with Tommy’s nonchalance and his decision to depart for an ice-cream with a total stranger, but he shook off the anger and turned to shake Mr Ennis’ hand.

“Alex Kinsella. Thanks for bringing my son back, Mr Ennis.”

“Gavin, please. And it’s no trouble. He’s a very clever boy, Dr Kinsella. You must be very proud of him.” Gavin still had a hold of Alex hand.

Alex eye twitched involuntarily but he managed to force a smile onto his face.

“Thanks, Gavin. We are.”

Ennis stood smiling at him in silence, until Alex cleared his throat, pulled his hand from Gavin’s and took Tommy by the hand.

“Well, thanks again Gavin. Good to meet you.”

“And you, Dr Kinsella.” He bent to ruffle Tommy’s hair.

“Nice to meet you too, young man.”

Thomas laughed and asked Gavin “See you again sometime? Next time we’re at the beach?”

Alex bristled at the stranger’s easy familiarity and obvious rapport with his son. “Sure.” Gavin replied. “Bye folks.”

With that, Gavin made his way from the beach back up towards the ice-cream bar.

Alex looked down at his son. “Did this guy just come over and ask you to go for an ice-cream?”

Thomas shook his head. No, Dad. I saw him reading a Jonathan Maberry book and went over to talk to him. I told you, I’m not stupid.” Thomas said defensively.

Alex looked his son in the eye. “I’m really angry at you, Thomas. You had me worried.”

Looking at his bare feet, the boy shuffled. “Sorry.”

It was grudged, he clearly felt that he hadn’t done anything wrong and this worried Alex.

“C’mon, son. Let’s go take Mum home.” As they walked towards their spot on the beach where Sarah lay, Thomas asked his father, “Can we go for a burger on the way home, Dad? I’ll pay.” Thomas fished a note from his pocket and waved it as his father.

Alex snatched the unfamiliarly-coloured note from him. Unfolding it he realised his son had a one thousand pound note.

“Did he give you this?” he asked sounding angrier than he’d meant to.

Thomas’s eyes had begun to tear up. “Yes. It was a gift.”

“Right.” Alex said.

Grabbing Thomas by his wrist he marched towards the ice-cream bar, trailing the boy behind him and holding the note out in a fist. Storming into the bar, his eyes tore around the room, searching for Ennis. With no sign of him, Alex approached the vendor, still clutching Tommy’s wrist.

“’Scuse me?” he barked at the vendor. “Have you seen a guy in a suit?”

“Oh, aye. Mr Ennis. He was having a chat with the wee man there a wee while ago.”

“And you didn’t think that was a bit weird?” He asked the man.

Looking puzzled and a little defensive the guy replied.

“What? A guy and a wee laddie sitting laughing together over an ice-cream? Not really, pal. Besides, Mr Ennis is a lovely man, he’s in here all the time.”

Alex was exasperated. “Where is he?”

The vendor shrugged. “You just missed him. His driver just picked him up two minutes ago.”

“Driver?”

“Aye.” Replied the vendor.

“He’s got one of those big Mayback jobs. None of your hydrogen powered nonsense, a real petrol engine.”

Alex shook off his confusion. “Who is this guy exactly?”

The vendor pointed at a Holo-Ad that was playing on the projector in the corner. The Ad was for Synthi-Sperm’s largest manufacturer, Synthi-Co.

“He owns that company. Lovely man, down to earth. You’d never know he had billions in the bank….Except for the car.”

 

4

Alex closed Thomas’ room door and leaned against it for a second. He’d spoken over and over again to his son about how worried he’d been for him when Thomas had disappeared with Gavin Ennis that afternoon. Tommy said all the right things to assure his dad that it wouldn’t happen again, but Alex could tell from his body language that his son thought that he hadn’t done anything wrong and was just telling his father what he wanted to hear. This meant that Thomas would likely make the same choice gain given a similar situation and this made Alex nervous. There was little point in pushing him further, Tommy had made his mind up and Alex would just have to trust that he’d listen to him.

Continuing along the hallway, Alex gently pushed the door to his and Sarah’s room open and peeked inside. She was sprawled across the entire bed, fully clothed and in a deep vape-induced sleep. One less thing to worry about tonight. Alex thought to himself, before descending the stairs to the kitchen.

After making a coffee, he perched himself on the nearest stool. An infrequent coffee-drinker, the intense hit refreshed his weary mind almost instantly. Alex enjoyed the new clarity for a second before reaching for his Holo-Net tablet. Propping the tablet on the breakfast bar, Alex pressed a soft key on the edge of the device. The tablet resembled a very thin picture frame but with an empty space where the glass and photograph would normally sit. Very light, the frame was designed to fold to credit-card size.

Upon pressing the soft key the frame immediately flashed into life, a vivid High Definition Holo-image of the family filling the empty space of the frame. Alex pressed softly at the corner of the image and it changed to a traditional looking desktop, which is what Alex liked to work from. Selecting the Holo-Net icon, Alex watched a Holo-Keyboard slide out from the bottom of the frame and began searching the Holo-Net for information on Gavin Ennis. Hours later, he’d selected a dozen or so blogs, news articles, opinion pieces and company reports from the hundreds of articles he’d found on Mr Gavin Ennis. Alex was determined to find something to justify the unease he’d felt when Gavin placed his arm around Thomas.

 

Business Insider

 

Gavin Ennis today issued a share option to his five hundred thousand staff. The generous package rewards staff at all levels, from janitorial to boardroom, a quarterly bonus in shares in return for their hard work and contribution to the company. The effectiveness of the employee’s service within the company will determine how many shares each employee is rewarded with.

 

In a statement announcing the scheme, Mr Ennis stated,

 

“We want every lab technician, Scientist, executive, mailroom operative and accountant in our firm to be valued equally and have equal opportunity to receive equal shares issued. With this in mind, these bonuses will be decided by a sliding scale which takes into account the effectiveness, efficiency and loyalty of each individuals’ specific role. Simply put; if our janitor works his ass off and one of our executives under-achieves, our janitor will go home with more shares than the exec.”

 

The scheme is yet another example of why Mr Ennis has been our Business person of the Year three years in a row and Europe’s’ Employer of the Year for the last five years. Mr Ennis’ proactive approach to business management and investment in his staff at all levels is impressive.

 

Alex tapped the corner of the article and brought the next few articles to the front of the Holo-Screen.

 

Time Magazine

 

“Gavin Ennis is our kinda guy!”

 

Daily China Gazette

 

“Ennis continues to forge global links, driving forward his mission to bring low-priced, high quality reproductive health care to citizens of every country.”

 

The Scotsman

 

“Gavin Ennis continues to fly the Saltire.”

 

New Scientist Magazine

 

“Ennis contribution to and continued developments in reproductive health place him in the upper echelons of the scientific elite. That he shares his ideas so freely and his services so cheaply, is to his credit.”

 

 Tiring of reading, Alex brought up a Holo-Tube documentary that nicely summarised Ennis’ contribution to the Synthi-Sperm sector and gestured a command to start the presenter speaking.

 

“In 2025 the World Health Organisation published a report on the diminishing reproductive capabilities of the world’s male population. Sperm quality and quantity in the ‘of breeding age’ demographic had fallen to previously unseen levels. The WHO report presented convincing evidence which suggested that the drastic and irreversible decline in reproductive function was most likely the result of an accumulation of three generations use of hormone-based contraception as well as some other unknown elements. The report suggested that the effects on our physiology and genetics of high levels of progesterone and oestrogen in our drinking water had instigated a permanent change in human physiology.

By 2040 only one in a hundred thousand couples globally could reproduce without medical assistance. Quality sperm had rapidly become the most expensive substance in the history of humankind; until a small lab named Synthi-Co in Wales, founded by Mr Gavin Ennis perfected the technique for producing, healthy artificial sperm.

By 2050, most babies were the result of IVF using the now ubiquitous synthi-sperm. Whilst children conceived by the synthetic method demonstrated a slightly reduced capacity for learning and were significantly more docile than the much rarer, Randoms, the choice of physical characteristics available to the parents when designing the synthi-sperm which would become their child, offset any worries they may have had about their child being a little mild-mannered.

It had become fashionable to use synthi-sperm and a significant portion of the small minority who could conceive ‘naturally’ frequently chose to use synthi-sperm anyway, rather than take a gamble on which characteristics their offspring might inherit. Very few children remained in the population who’d been conceived by ‘traditional means’, and were generally referred to as Randoms; a reference to their relatively random conception and the formation of their physical characteristics.

Whilst a generation of more desirable designer children now existed, ambition, competition and will to succeed seemed mostly absent in the synthi-kids and this new generation was much more content and much less aggressive than any that had come before. The world of 2050 is a much more peaceful place to live in, but discrimination and prejudices do still exist.

The Randoms have become somewhat of an underclass. Parents of Randoms worry about their child’s career prospects and take care to hide their child’s status from their peers. Many have begun to purchase illegal documents to falsely validate their child; to certify them as being of the new breed of children. The parents of synthi-kids take comfort in knowing that they’ve given their offspring the best possible start in life.

Recently there have been rumours of defects in the synthi-kid genome, but most parents have faith that the governments will provide their local geneticists with the new skills and techniques to iron out any flaws. They believe that they are in good hands and trust their Reproductive Health Professionals.

Mr Ennis has been quick to reassure his patients that Synthi-Kids are indeed the healthiest and most advantaged children our society has ever produced. He has also dedicated his vast resources to founding community assistance for the so called Randoms, stating that ‘No British child, no matter how deficient their start in life, should ever be discriminated against.’ His outlook and defence of human rights proved popular with the British public leading to a call for a government position to be created for Mr Ennis. The Scottish government moved quickly, making Mr Ennis a national tsar of sorts for reproductive and mental health in Scotland. The British government is widely expected to match the offer.

 The report went on for another hour but Alex had gotten what he needed. Frowning, he closed all of his active screens. Seems our Mr Ennis, pardon me, Gavin, is a bit of a saint. A super-wealthy saint, but a saint none the less.

END OF EXCERPT

The Man Who Sold His Son is scheduled for publication by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing in late Summer 2014

Mark is the author of Bobby’s Boy, Head Boy, Naebody’s Hero and the dEaDINBURGH Series.

You can find Mark and his books at Amazon UK and Amazon US

Ronnie the Rooster

Ronnie the Rooster is the first short-story I wrote. I’ve no idea who Ronnie is based on or where his story came from. I couldn’t find another place to use it so I crowbarred it into my debut novel, Bobby’s Boy.

 Since It’s my birthday, I’m indulging myself. This is one of my favourite stories to have written. Enjoy.

Over 18s only (or those who enjoy tales of bionic fuckery at least).

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Never trust an OAP from Caldercruix with a glint in his eye and a bulge in his trousers.

Ronnie the Rooster

 

Ronnie was a chicken farmer from Caldercruix  who had grafted for decades, rearing chickens and supplying excellent quality eggs and meat to the local farmers’ markets on weekends. Ronnie loved his life. In his mid-fifties, he had been happily married for nearly thirty years to his beloved Agnes. Together, they’d worked hard, built a profitable business and raised three kids, sending each in turn out into the world to make their way.

Their eldest, Ronald Jnr, had moved to Surrey and was running a successful legal practice. He specialised in family law, mainly divorces, which Ronnie Senior found a little sad. The old man often wondered if Ronnie Junior was really happy in what could be such a demanding and sometimes heartbreaking role. Young Ronnie still called his dad three or four times a week to talk about the football, the horses, or just to catch up. Old Ronnie appreciated that as he knew how tight the lad’s time was.

Senga, their daughter, was an experienced emergency room doctor and was well through her training to become a general surgeon. She worked in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, which was a forty-minute drive east along the M8 motorway, and she’d found a home nearby the hospital in the city centre. Ronnie and Agnes saw her often thanks to her living within commutable distance. Senga had that rare gift of being hugely intelligent, but utterly inclusive and sweet to everyone around her, whilst still being no one’s fool. Ronnie Senior honestly couldn’t remember the girl getting upset about anything or saying a bad word about anyone. Everyone loved Senga. She was a born “fixer” and a natural doctor as a result of her accepting and caring attitude.

Their youngest boy, Steven, named after his grandfather on his mother’s side, was a different breed. Steven was sugar and shite in that you could see Steven on one occasion and he would be everyone’s pal, lighting up the room and bringing a carnival of fun with him. The next time you saw him he’d be a moody, angry wee fanny. He was an artist and while old Ronnie loved his unpredictable, tornado of a personality, young Ronnie had little time for him when his younger sibling was in shite mode, asserting on more than one occasion that his brother was “A lazy wee bastard, sorry Dad.”

Young Ronnie just didn’t understand his brother. Steven wasn’t interested in the academic or career-driven path to what others perceived as success. Rather, he just wanted to create things that excited him and was happy with the basics in life. So long as he could empty the many ideas and projects that cluttered his brain onto a canvas or image, the boy was content.

Steven had recently produced photographs of places and people bathed in “light graffiti”. The process of producing these images involved young Steven preparing a location at night, pitch black, opening his camera lens and “painting” the empty air with lights which were captured in the camera lens like the trail of a sparkler moved in the air by a child. These scenes amazed old Ronnie but left him baffled as to where the originality of the “paintings” had sprung from in Steven’s mind.

Ronnie took some stick regularly from the lads in the pub for Steven’s choice of vocation, but laughed it off easily. He was in awe of Steven’s talent and could never have dreamed he’d have such a creative child. Ronnie had no doubt that Steven was by far the happiest and most content of his children but he still shared with his siblings the energy and drive to add something of worth to the world.

Ronnie never compared his children to each other, or to anyone else’s for that matter, but enjoyed each of their achievements equally with pride. “We’ve done not bad for a couple of auld chicken farmers,” he repeated to Agnes often, in reference to their happy and successful children, during a cuddle on the sofa on many an evening. Life had rewarded his hard-working family and Ronnie was looking forward to retiring later that year, having negotiated a very good sale of the farm and surrounding land to a young businessman. The deal would give him and Agnes the financial security to travel for most of their remaining years.

That had been the plan anyway, until Ronnie started having health problems.

It happened infrequently at first. One time, written off as tiredness. Weeks would then pass and again the problem would come. It soon became that more often than not that he would be compelled to leave their bedroom and go downstairs to sit smoking in his armchair until the sting of embarrassment from the latest humiliating episode had subsided and he could face her again. Ronnie had very suddenly and unfortunately become impotent.

He just couldn’t understand it. Ronnie had never had any problems in that department before. Old age, he supposed, absent-mindedly flicking through a men’s magazine to see if he could get his member stirring at the women in its pages. Alas, no response. Far from feeling lust towards the naked and posing girls quite literally spread across the magazine’s pages, Ronnie found himself worrying.

-That lassie could dae wi’ a jumper on. She’s freezin’ judging by thon nipples… Och well. At my time in life it doesn’t matter so much. I’ve got my health, my children and my Agnes. She’s always been the understanding type, and we hardly bother in that department these days anyway. It might have been a big loss ten years ago, but I can live with it now.-

As Ronnie thought it, he relaxed into his seat, relieved that he had found it so easy to accept the newly-dormant nature of his penis. Unfortunately for him, Agnes found it much more difficult to accept his condition. His wife of thirty years left him within three months of his member retiring, and exactly two days before he himself retired.

In the weeks and months that followed, the newly retired Ronnie found himself rattling round the once-family home. Too much time on his hands and too quiet a house. It seemed that the house and Ronnie both missed its former occupants and previously busy rooms. He sold up within a few weeks of Agnes moving out. She had moved into a flat down in Durham with a younger man, forty years old, he’d heard.

Ronnie too, found himself a small flat in nearby Hamilton, and started slowly rebuilding his social life. Snooker with old friends, book clubs, swimming, visiting his kids, his days began to fill and happiness re-entered his newly expanding world again. One thing kept nagging at Ronnie though. He missed having a female companion. It wasn’t the sexual side of the relationship especially, but the intimacy that came with hand-holding and cuddling was a great absence in his life. Climbing into an empty bed also left him empty inside. He couldn’t envisage being able to offer any of his female friends a proper relationship due to his impotence and began cursing the condition he’d once been ambivalent about.

After a great deal of research, visits to a London cosmetic clinic and some soul-searching, Ronnie decided upon a course of action. He used a significant portion of his retirement money and shared profits from the sale of the family home to finance a new, innovative and incredibly effective treatment for impotence.

A penile shaft graft.

The operation sounded brutal. The penis was first lengthened by effectively pulling the internal part through to the outside world, as would happen during the normal erection. It was then sliced lengthways, like a hot-dog bun, and a three-part steel rod inserted. Then it would be stitched back up. The three sections of the rod were joined by a locking hinge at each section, giving the owner the option of click-twisting the hinges in place, straightening and hardening the penis. The operation offered the safety of an instant and unfailing, steel-hard erection. After sex, the wearer would simply twist-pop the steel rod into the at-rest position.

In this rest position it would hang like a normal penis, admittedly a slightly longer and heavier penis than he’d previously possessed, but hey ho. It could be snapped up and out into the ready position with a few quick twists. Easy; even with the wee bit of arthritis in Ronnie’s hands earned from years of handling chicken eggs.

It took four long months to fully heal but Ronnie couldn’t have been happier with the results. The newly-equipped Ronnie wasted no time inviting a lady friend round to his to try out his new boaby. He found it a joy to be able to satisfy a woman again, if a bit strange to be having sex with someone other than Agnes after so many decades. Still, it didn’t bother him for long. Within a month word of Ronnie’s cyborghood had spread and a steady stream of over-fifties widows, divorcees and bored wives began calling on him daily. He’d only ever wanted one lady’s hand but as she’d fucked off and left him, well, he thought that he deserved to indulge himself a wee bit. Never with the married ones though.

Within a year Ronnie and his ever-ready steel penis had become famous from Lanarkshire to the Highlands, and even as far south as Carlisle. Women from all over were contacting him with invitations to come “visit” them at their homes, all expenses paid.

“What can you do?” he’d ask mates in the pub when relaying his stories.

“Snap the auld cock into place and get going Ronnie,” was the standard reply. And so he did.

All in all Ronnie spent ten years, his final ten years as it turned out, travelling the length and breadth of the UK. He spent these trips forming friendships, enjoying food, wine, long walks in the countryside, and many, many women. His exploits earned him the nickname “Ronnie the Rooster”, which paid tribute to his chicken-farming past, and sexually hyper-active present.

No one knows if he visited Agnes in Durham.

Bobby’s Boy and Mark’s other books, Naebody’s Hero, Head Boy and dEaDINBURGH are available now on Amazon

………………………………….

dEaDINBURGH: Cover reveal and blurb

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Here is the final blurb and cover image for my upcoming fourth novel, dEaDINBURGH:

Edinburgh, 1645:
The bubonic plague rages. In a desperate attempt to quarantine the infected, the city leaders seal the residents of Mary King’s Close in their underground homes.

2015:
Mary King’s Close is reopened, unleashing a mutated plague upon the city residents.
The UK government seals the entire city. Declaring it a dead zone they seal the survivors inside alongside the infected. dEaDINBURGH is declared a no man’s land, its residents left for dead and to the dead.

2050:
Joseph MacLeod, born onto the cobbles of the Royal Mile and stolen from the clutches of the infected is determined to escape the quarantined city. Under the guidance of former marine Padre Jock, he leaves the confines of the city centre and hones his archery and free-running skills.
Alys Shephard, born into an all-women farming community believes a cure lies in the south of the quarantined zone. The finest combatant in the dead city, Alys burns with anger. The anger of an abandoned child.

Something much worse than the infected waits for them in the south, in the form of a religious cult led by a madman named Somna who collects gruesome trophies and worships the dead body of a former celebrity. Added to this the enigmatic Bracha, a supreme survivalist and sadistic former Royal with his own agenda, stalks the teenagers.

A self-contained story, dEaDINBURGH is a character-driven Young Adult/Dystopian novel exploring the human capacity for good, evil and for survival.

Released on March 31st 2014 by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing.

Goodbye Bellshill and The Shugs

In this Chapter from Bobby’s Boy, my main character, Tommy Kinsella, is taking a wee walk around the town, before leaving on tour with Rage Against the Machine. The scene is set around 1992.

The following excerpt is from Chapter 9 of Bobby’s Boy by Mark Wilson. Copyright Paddy’s Daddy Publishing and Mark Wilson 2012.

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Tom walked from Community Road, around past the corner shop with its pavement decorated with smashed Buckfast bottles in front of drawn steel shutters, to catch the number 14 bus to the Main Street. He walked along from Bellshill Cross, past The Crown bar, smiling to himself at memories that came to mind as he went. As he walked, Tom remembered finding a huge carrier bag full of unopened spirits and wines in the car park behind the Corrie bogs. He’d been fourteen at the time, had grabbed the bag, and sprinted through the alley to the Main Street, practically skipping with glee at his find.  Unfortunately, a police van had been passing just as he shot onto the street and they soon had him at the side of the road, pouring a litre bottle of vodka, a half-bottle of Bell’s whisky, a bottle of wine, and six cans of the purple tin (Tennent’s Super) slowly down the drain. He’d been furious at the time, but later consoled himself with the bottle of kiwi and lime Mad Dog 20/20 he’d secreted into his coat.

Tom continued along the Main Street, passing where Herbie Frog’s and subsequently Valenti’s used to sit. Both had been nightclubs which catered to the fanny-dancing, crotch-grinding, Benzini jean-wearing and terminally hormonal Bellshill teen scene. Between Herbie Frog’s and the YMCA disco further along the road, you didn’t have to work too hard for a lumber in the fourteen to sixteen demographic.

Across the road was The Royal Bank of Scotland and First in Town, a hardware store, just next door. Tom’d had a drunken encounter with Linda McGovern behind that bank one night after Herbie Frog’s came out. She’d led him around to the rear of the building, pinned him to the wall, and proceeded to search his teeth for leftover dinner with her probing tongue that tasted of cigarettes. Linda had paused only briefly in her molestation to ask, “Whit turns ye oan?”

In reply, Tommy had distracted her, jumped over the wall towards First in Town’s yard, and had run like fuck, never once looking back. Despite badly tearing a ligament in his foot upon landing, he considered it a lucky escape in hindsight. Linda had been furious, roaring after him, “Ya fuckin’ poofy-prick!”

She had even turned up at his school looking for some kind of sexually frustrated reckoning a few days later. Tom took no pride in his actions at the time, hiding in the bin shed for an hour while she stalked the school growing more furious and more determined to find him with every moment that he eluded her. He’d heard later that Pez had calmed her down, sweet talking her into a date later that night. In Tom’s mind Pez’s lion-taming brought to mind an interview he’d seen with a dog-handler on the regional news where the seasoned dog-whisperer had explained that to calm an aggressive bitch, you simply had to slide a finger into her anus. It worked a treat for dogs in his charge apparently. As good a wingman as Pez was, Tom doubted he’d go to those lengths to aid the escape of his cowering friend. The memory made Tom laugh out loud as he continued on his walk around town.

Tom had actually worked in First in Town at weekends for around three years, making close friends with the Pakistani family who owned the hardware shop. They liked Tom as he worked hard, asked endless questions about their homeland and devoured the home-made curries on such a scale that it made them wonder where he put all that food. The matriarch of the family, Betty, seemed to enjoy the challenge of trying to fatten the skinny white kid. He’d eaten so much curry and worked so many shifts for the family that customers who came in began charmingly referring to Tom as the “White Paki”. Tom loved Bellshill, but some folk would always have their prejudices, especially those folks that didn’t even realise that they had them, and genuinely would be mystified at any offence caused by their comments. In recent years, the store had been in decline, following a scandal involving the patriarch.

Tom also passed Bellshill Academy, a place of mixed memories for him. Some made him laugh, others wince, and none more so than remembering  Diller, who made everyone’s life a misery, pupil and teacher alike. In a school full to the rafters of vicious bastards, Diller took the prize for most evil of the lot. Tom suspected that someone must have fucked him right over within days of being born, maybe stole a sook of his mother’s tit or something, and Diller had decided to spend the remaining years he had on the planet in a state of part fury, part cold calculated malice, exacting revenge on the human species.

Tom made his way out of town and visited his dad’s grave in Birkenshaw a few miles up the road. He’d also been to see Mum, baby Jayne and Mel where they lay in their graves in Hamilton.

He was having a final look around Bellshill cross, when he spotted two familiar old faces sitting on the bench outside the church. The men were Eck Forsyth and Wullie McInally. They’d been in that spot, on that same bench, seemingly endlessly and certainly for as long as anyone in town could remember. Frequently they argued about religion.

Eck would habitually scour the immediate area searching for cigarette butts. He’d later strip the tobacco from the fag-ends in a baccy tin and use it for roll ups. “Nae point in buying fags,” he would say. “If there are cunts daft enough tae leave good tobacco lying about, then I’ll fucking have it.”

He was one of the first eco-warriors to exist in Lanarkshire. Although Eck didn’t know it, recycling was his life. Not for any lofty, planet-hugging agenda, but just because he was a tight old bastard. He reputedly lived in a lovely old house filled with fine furnishings, but sat daily on this bench asking for and getting fags from strangers and recycling their butt ends.

Wullie had his own “thing”. He was a committed insulter of the teenaged community of Bellshill, brandishing his index and middle fingers at them horizontally and shouting “Smell yer maw” at any and all passing teenagers. To be fair, Wullie was rumoured to be a former ladies man or “hoor-maister” many decades ago. If his reputation was deserved, there’s a fair chance in a town as small as Bellshill that he had indeed shagged their mothers, or even grandmothers. Or perhaps both.

Both men wore bunnets and smelled strongly of Tennent’s Super, the outdoors and ever so slightly of pish. Both had a purple tin in hand, and a rolled up paper in their coat pockets. Both were hilarious when you got them talking. Eck and Wullie were engaged in one of their usual arguments about religion as Tom approached. One man took the Protestant stance, the other the Catholic one. Tom, coming from what was referred to in Lanarkshire as a “mixed family”, had never given a damn about the religious opinions or divides.

Unfortunately, he was in a minority in his disinterest. These issues were all too important in many homes locally, fuelled by allegiance to the two Glasgow football teams. Both clubs seemed only too happy to work together and exploit the religious prejudices of the community. They supplied an outlet for the tension and hatred while keeping up a pretence of trying to stamp out the bigots, filling their coffers in the process. Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Glasgow had a long and divided history of religious bigotry, imported from Northern Ireland. Tom had never quite understood the history behind the Protestants’ and Catholics’ mutual distrust and hatred of each other, mainly because he didn’t care enough about what seemed to him to be petty rivalry, and an excuse to spit hatred at people on a Saturday, then go to work all pals again on a Monday.

Personally, he’d never seen any difference in the people of either affiliation, except that one group wore green and the other blue. One group also seemed to take comfort from departed loved ones, or God watching over them and emoting pride at times of triumph, whilst the other lot seemed to only sense disapproval or judgement when they had a wee secret fumble or something.  One group had a touch of The Armada about them, in their dark hair and skin and general good looks. Tom suspected that if the supporters woke up one day and both football clubs were gone, they’d simply paint snails in opposing colours and race them to find an outlet for their ‘beliefs’.

As Tom passed close to the bench, Eck through habit said “Gies a fag”, and Wullie went “Smell yer’…” but stopped as he saw Tom.

“Aw, it’s Bobby’s Boy.”

Both men knew him through some uncle, cousin or other, or perhaps had known his dad directly, and simply asked how he was and wished him a good day.

“I’m away to work abroad for a wee while,” he told them.

“Aye, well don’t forget you’re from Bellshill son, and Bellshill will aye be yer home,” Wullie barked at him.

“Aye, ok, thanks. Take care of yourselves, in the cold,” Tom replied.

“Aye we’re used to it son,” said Eck, followed immediately by “Right ya orange bastard, where were we?” to Wullie.

Tom walked slowly back home to Community Road, taking only a detour past the family’s old house in Harvey Way. The modest, white pebble-dashed little house had been a happy home to his departed family. It now housed a new family, which was nice, and reminded Tom to call his sister before he left for San Francisco later that day.

As he reached the other end of town and approached Liberty Road, Tom had a peek in the windows of Rob Hamilton’s old place. Nobody had lived there since the family had all but disappeared one night a few years back while Tom was still living in Blackwood. When Tom had first moved back to Bellshill to live with Alec, he’d looked forward to reforming his friendship with Rob. The boys had been best friends their whole lives, and Tom had been lost without him when he’d been uprooted to Blackwood with his mum and Mel. When Tom discovered that Rob’s family had moved on mysteriously, it came as a massive disappointment to him. No one in the area had figured out for sure what had happened to make the Hamiltons depart so suddenly, but rumours of child abandonment and subsequent social service involvement persisted.

Tom left Liberty Road and took the customary shortcut over the bing. The bing was an old coal mine deposit, basically a grass-covered hill/cross country run circuit/alcoholics stomping ground. It also served as a short cut to Lawmuir Primary School, as there was a gap in the fence at the rear of the school facing the bing. Crossing over the bing made a handy cut-through from Liberty Road to Community Road too, if you didn’t mind some verbal abuse and a potential shoe theft perpetrated by the resident zombie-like glue-sniffers.

Tom had heard recent rumours about a former classmate of his named Craig Queen. The rumours concerned an apparent unhealthy interest in dogs’ arseholes, which he’d allegedly been disturbed violating in a quiet area at the top of the bing. It wouldn’t surprise Tom if the rumour was true. Craig had always been a shifty bastard who got a weird, creepy look in his eyes when the girls trooped into the sports hall during PE class. Tom had smacked him once for cornering a terrified first year in school and pishing on said first year after knocking him to the ground, apparently for getting in his way. It seemed a reasonable leap of logic to Tom that if he was pishing on first years at school four years ago, he might well have diversified or graduated to shagging canines. Tom was across the bing sharp and down the other side, with the mental image of Queen’s face twisted with pleasure, accompanied by a puzzled howl.

As he turned into Community Road at last, Tom passed the Shugs’ house. Turning the corner stealthily as always, he tried to blend into a bush hoping to go unnoticed by the house’s occupants. He’d executed this manoeuvre many times, and had little difficulty slipping past. The Shugs were a family of socially deprived and under-educated delinquents, who suffered with a variety of disorders and conditions. So said social services. Everyone else knew and feared those fucking animals for what they were: psychotic, sadistic and violent beasts.

The Shugs were masters of physical and mental torture, stalking their victims ruthlessly and relentlessly through the streets of Bellshill. Tales of the Shugs’ exploits always reminded Tom of The Terminator, embodied by the line from the movie: “It can’t be bargained with. It doesn’t feel pity or remorse, or fear.”

That summed an individual Shug up perfectly. Collectively, they were a horrifying prospect that brought the nightmarish terror of the stalking, many-headed beast into stark ball-aching reality for many a generation of Bellshillians.

The whole family was male. Each man was well over six foot tall, heavily muscled, especially the back, chest, arms and neck. They were, to a man, widely regarded to be ultra-violent, and highly predatory. The Shugs seemed to possess the olfactory ability to raise a nose to the breeze, sniff out a weak animal and hunt it. All were named simply Shug. Their true names were never uttered or even known by most, though Tom suspected that the Shug moniker had been adopted intentionally to avoid police questions and confuse witness testimony. If a brave witness gave the name of the man he saw punch, maim or rob an individual, all he had to offer was “Shug”. It was futile for the police to try to determine which particular Shug and besides, they weren’t any keener than the civilian populace to visit the Shug homestead.

There were six of them that Tom knew about. There was Old Shug the dad. There were two Shugs in their thirties, Mad Shug and Shug wi’ the Dug. What it took to be called mad in that family was something truly exceptional, and Shug wi’ the Dug, well he had a dog. It was a huge baby-eating bastard of a beast that appeared to have been gestated by a wolf that’d been violated by a grizzly bear. Bundy, the dug, named for Ted Bundy, a hero of The Shugs, was only slightly less terrifying than its master. Both men, happily, spent most of their existence behind bars.

Young Shug was in his early twenties, and indulged himself in burglary, arson and cruelty to the elderly. He was the Shug with means, thanks to his chosen profession. He was what’s known in Bellshill as “a thieving cunt”. Young Shug was more often than not accompanied by Shug. Just Shug. No other description was required. Shug was a monster of a man-child, at eighteen tender years of age towering over and outweighing his massive older siblings. Shug was by far the most frightening of the clan in his calm, measured silence. He was rumoured to have blown his top completely once in HMV in Argyle Street. He was, by all accounts, observed during his rampage biting, stabbing and kicking the staff, as well as tearing down racks of CDs, screaming “Stick yer student discount up yer fuckin’ arse.”

Tom had never seen him do anything, except slide that chilling reptilian stare slowly over everyone he encountered, surveying and assessing every weakness, storing them away in that amygdala-driven pea-sized brain, for future attentions.

The last Shug was Big Shug. This Shug wasn’t the biggest; he was dwarfed by Shug, just like all his brethren. No, size wasn’t his virtue. This Shug inspired high hopes in the others of his kind. He was the future, a new model. Shug 2.0 if you like. He was the youngest, at only fifteen years, but this Shug was different from all the rest. He had all the brutality and predatory senses. He’d learned all the skills of his older siblings, but this Shug had something truly dangerous with which to augment his physicality. He had intelligence. This was one truly arse-clenchingly terrifying thing, this pinnacle of Shug evolution.

 

As Tom walked further down Community Road towards his place, he heard the Neanderthal roar of a Shug who’d clearly spotted some unfortunate wee bastard passing his house. “Haw wee baws. Get fuckin’ in here and gie me a fuckin’ fag.”

Poor wee cunt, thought Tom. He’d been there in that guy’s shoes many times in the past.

 

End of Excerpt

You can purchase Bobby’s Boy along with Mark’s other books at Amazon UK

dEaDINBURGH – On Location and Chapter 12 Preview

Having spent a day shooting locations from the book with Paul McGuigan of PMCG Photography, it felt like a good time for another update.

At this point in the book, Alys and Joey have reunited after a three year absence. Alys has convinced Joey to enter a no man’s land in the South of the dead city, beyond the inner fences in search of a cure and a madman.

Lyrics from Unified Zombie Republic used with  permission of Gavin Bain
of Hopeless Heroic and Silibil-N-Brains

The following excerpt is from dEaDINBURGH by Mark Wilson and is copyright of Mark Wilson and Paddy’s Daddy Publishing:

Chapter 12

 

A sudden push against the bus sent it wobbling to one side. Alys and Joey both snatched their weapons up and stood to look through the misted windows.

“Didn’t you have a check around before you arrived?” she snapped at Joey more out of shock than genuine anger.

“Of course I did.” He said calmly.

Both turned their eyes back to the winnow, Alys stepping forward to rub some of the condensation away with the sleeve of her coat. She gasped as she looked out onto Canonmills. Joey pressed his cheek against hers to get a better look through the gap she’d made and let out a little sound of his own.

The bus was surrounded by Zoms. Every panel, front, sides and rear was being pushed upon by a herd of them, three deep in parts. Each of them was completely fixed on the bus, lips drawn back from snapping teeth.

“Where the hell did they come from?” Joey asked. “You ever see that many in one place?”

Alys shook her head.

“You?”

Not like that.” He replied. “They’re all pretty fresh.

By fresh he meant fast, vicious, dangerous, and of course, hungry.

There was little chance of them pushing the bus over; they simply didn’t have the strength or coordination for that, unless they got lucky. The greatest risk to them was that the hands that had begun to slap against the windows would eventually break the glass. Neither of them was particularly worried about a zom climbing through a broken window, the panels were too high for that, but the broken window would definitely mean exposure to the bitter winter wind howling louder than the Zoms groans outside.

“Upstairs.” Alys told him, leading the way to the top deck.

From the top they gained a better view of what they faced. Alys guessed maybe sixty Zoms, all fresh, had surrounded the bus. She rubbed her temples, thinking, what the hell brought so many of them here?

Canonmills was outside the inner fence, but only just; and generally was fairly clear of the dead. Those she had encountered recently in the area had been older ones, slow and part-frozen with the winter frost.

Glancing along the aisle of the bus towards Joey who had his face pressed against the rear window, she gave him a sharp whistle. When he turned, she pointed up at the ceiling, eliciting a conspirational grin from him, followed by a quick nod of approval.

Stepping on Joey’s interlocked hands, she boosted herself up towards the skylight, pushed it open and climbed through, out onto the snow-covered roof, before dangling her arm through to help Joey up.

“I’m cool.” He told her. As Alys withdrew her arm, Joey’s hands grabbed the skylight and his feet suddenly shot through followed by the rest of him, head last. He landed lightly on his feet in a crouch.

“Show off.” She shook her head at him. “Let’s see what we’ve got.”

She said, heading towards the edge to lean over. Her sudden presence above brought a surge of hungry groans from below.

“You think you can shoot them off? Maybe just clear a section for us to break through?”

Joey had a quick peek over.

“Na. Too few arrows; too many Zoms. How about we go back to the lower deck and just start braining them through the windows after they’ve broken through?”

Alys scowled.

“Too risky; too easy to get grabbed or bitten whilst reaching out.”

Joey’s face suddenly broke into a wide grin. Hooking his bow over his back, he went through his ritual of checking his weapons, tightening his laces and pulling his hood up, before cocking an eyebrow at her and flashing an even wider grin.

“Back in a minute, Alys.” He laughed and leaped from the bus’ roof onto the nearby bus shelter, from where he did a tight sideways somersault, landing on the roof of a phone box several feet away. With a final cartwheel-tuck, he span off the phone box, landing catlike two feet behind the row of Zoms who still faced the bus.

Launching into a song, he took off up the hill towards a burnt put Esso petrol station, Sixty-odd dead shuffling behind him like a grotesque parade.

“Searching for answers and finding more reasons, not to believe in the bullshit they feed us….” Joey sand loudly and out of tune, laughing as he ran, tumbled and span his way up the hill, away from the bus.

He’s entirely too full of himself, that boy, Alys thought, supressing a smile.

Returning a few minutes later, Joey had doubled back around the Zoms who were still headed up towards Rodney Street. Joey was walking towards her, arms wide in a what you think gesture. Alys shook her head, “Nice singing, Joey.”

He laughed loudly. “You like that? Jock taught me it.”

Joey launched into another verse, ducking as she threw a right-hander at him.

“Shut up, idiot. You’ll have them back down here.” She nodded up at the herd of Zoms. Some of the rear ones had lurched around and were looking in their direction, teeth bared.

“Okay. Let’s go tell your mother that we’re running away to find a cure at The Royal Infirmary, which is by the way, surrounded by murdering madmen who worship a Zommed-out footballer. That’ll be fun.”

Alys cocked an eyebrow at him. Deadpan she said. “Okay.”

End of Excerpt

On location in dEaDINBURGH

You can find Mark and his books at Amazon, US; Amazon, UK and at Paddy’s Daddy Publishing.

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Milk

Two years ago I undertook a challenge to raise funds for Mary’s Meals. In the next week or so I’ll be launching another challenge, in the meantime, here’s a recap of the 30 Day Milk Challenge:

Milk

 

The Idea

During the month of May, 2011; I decided to undertake a challenge. It was a bit Jesus-y this challenge, not in a water to wine kind of way (not sure how productive I’d be given that gift), but rather in a starving in the desert, self-denial kind of way. I set out to survive (and hopefully thrive) on a diet restricted to milk, water, and daily multi-vitamins for the duration of 30 days.

 

No food, no alcohol, no anything, but milk and water.

 

My challenge began on 1st May and ended successfully on the 30th, with only one or two hitches, defeats, and minor embarrassments along the way. During the 30 days I learned a great deal about the difference between what we, as people, need and what we just want. Often our wants are mistaken for needs. When you don’t eat for 30 days, it redefines for you the number of calories it takes to not only function, but thrive as well as redefining the difference between want and need.

 

The 30 Days

The first two days, were spent ignoring hunger pangs and licking salt from the back of my hand. I wasn’t doing tequila shots, my body desperately craved the salt. Those days were also spent trying and failing to consume 4-5 pints of full-fat milk a day. I found this far too filling and on day 3 had to switch to semi-skimmed milk. Much better. By the 5th day, and bearing in mind that I lived with a challenging 2 year-old, the first coffee of the day was to prove a necessity that I couldn’t do without, so I added it back in.

After that, believe it or not, the rest was easy. I never once felt hungry, I felt full all the time actually. I didn’t crave any food in fact I lost all interest in it. Life generally became a bit simpler without having to organise meals, just get a bottle of milk. All in all I felt like a bit of a cheat as I wasn’t constantly having to fight the urge to eat and apart from the occasional energy crash and sleep to recover, it was ridiculously easy…..Until day 23.

Day 23 was a really windy day and as a result all transport out of fife to Edinburgh was halted for a few hours in the evening. My stomach, in a crowded train station, finally let me know its displeasure. I’ll spare you the details here, but it was unpleasant in the extreme. After that, I had stomach cramps almost continuously until day 30. Sleep was elusive.

Days 28 -30 also proved to be a challenge. The toughest days by far. I was hungry, very hungry. Food smells were torture, I dreamed about food all night, I day-dreamed about food all day, I would happily have bitten passing dogs, but there was no way I was giving up this close to completion. The hunger reminded me of my childhood and motivated me to finish. Also I thought about all the kind donations I’d received and didn’t want to let anyone down.

 

The Motivation

I’m not a religious man, despite the Jesus references earlier. I’m not the raise money for charity or Chugger type either. Never been the guy who takes time out of his day, week, or month to help others. So what’s changed? Nothing. I was introduced to a charity called, “Mary’s Meals, who feed and educate one child for a year for every £9.00, donated.

 

So what? I’ve walked past hundreds of people in my daily life who have been raising funds for worthy causes, so why did this one motivate me to effectively punish myself for a month?

The answer is simple: I live a privileged life. I think that most people in Britain, certainly most of those whom I interact with on a daily basis, have no real concept of how fortunate we are to live in Britain, and certainly have no idea (generally speaking) of what it means to go without.

 

Going Without

My family and I never go without a meal and actually have much more than we need. My son’s never known hunger (thankfully); he’s never gone to bed after a day of being hungry and woken up the same way. Neither has my wife, the majority people in this country haven’t, but I have.

I was brought up in a fairly impoverished environment, with most of my family, being mentally ill and/or alcoholics. My siblings and I, in our childhood, spent many days, frequently wondering where our next meal was coming from, and struggling to survive abuse and neglect from the adults in our lives. School was very much NOT a priority for us in those days except as a place to escape to for a few hours, see our friends and to receive a school dinner. I ate at my best friend’s house almost every day at one stage.

 

The memory of those days came back to me vividly upon learning of Mary’s Meals goals, probably because I associate meals with school, and set me on course for this challenge. Mary’s Meals encourages education by feeding children at schools all over the world.

I recalled memories of my mum trying to feed 3 people on a budget of £23.00 a fortnight and sharing a tin of soup between a family for a meal. Memories of items such as soap, shampoo, juices, fruit, and vegetables; classified by the Social Security as “luxuries”. Memories too of every item of clothing I ever owned, having belonged to at least one other person before me. Finally, memories of homeless-shelters and living with a stranger who we were taught to call dad. My family was far from unique in the area we lived in.

 

I have been fortunate and have worked extremely hard to educate and remove myself from this cycle of poverty, drugs, depression and cyclic failure. Due to this, it strikes a deep chord in me to see a charity like this doing the same for so many children across the world.

All anyone needs is the opportunity to make a better life for themselves. Being fed and educated is the very least a child should reasonably expect from life.

People who escape deprived upbringings and create a better life for themselves inevitably feel guilt about what they have and that’s the brick wall I had hit. This was my solution.

 

I will not be doing it again, and I do still like milk.

Through the money kindly donated to my challenge, Mary’s Meals will feed and educate around 60 children for a whole year. I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who donated this money. Thank you.

Mark Wilson

31/5/11

http://www.marysmeals.org.uk/