dEaDINBURGH: Hunted – Preview

The following excerpt is unedited and taken from

dEaDINBURGH: Hunted (Din Eidyn Corpus 4)

Available to pre-order now at Amazon

Filtering out Dad’s scraping and clattering, I focus on the errant noise. The pattern of the sounds tells me one of The Ringed is nearby, probably in amongst the trees or shrubs and making its way towards our little picnic site.

Leaving dad to busy himself with the tea, I move quietly towards the source of the noise. Shoving a heavy branch from my path, I come across a female Ringed. Both of her legs are badly broken. She walks with the ankle of her right foot folded all wrong, so that her foot trails along behind. Her lower right leg is missing completely giving her a tilted gait. I let a sigh out and draw one of my knives.

Seemingly intent on moving her awkward limbs, she doesn’t notice me until I’m three feet from her. When she looks up at me, I gasp and take a step back.

She’s newly-risen. Aside from the damage to her legs, she’s in good condition. At a guess, I’d say she’s been dead less than a month. It’s not the condition of her, or that she’s so close that makes me start. It’s her appearance. She’s my age, has my hair colour, height and general build. She also has her right eye missing.

The girl’s lips snarl back to reveal a mouthful of gums. No teeth remain in her head. Stepping towards her, I shove her powerless arms aside before driving my heavy blade through her brain. The girl flops, adding to the detritus. Sprawled onto the forest floor, I get a clear look at her. She does look like me, very much like me. Unnerved I draw a second blade and press my back to a silver birch for cover. My eye catches a glint at her leg. Peering closer, I get low. It’s a knife worn exactly where I sheath my own.

I close my eyes lightly and concentrate on the sounds around me, like Joey taught me. Filtering out animals, birds, the wind and swaying branches, I pick out an altogether more human sound.

To my left, perhaps fifty feet from me, a light and familiar footstep disturbs some dry leaves.

The girl, the location, the macabre humour of her appearance…Suddenly the tableaux makes perfect sense. In his head anyway.

“You might as well come out, Bracha,” I try to sound bored.

A moment later he ghosts out of the shadows, lifting aside a low branch with his golf club. Leaning on the club, one leg crossed over the other, he smiles broadly at me. “So wonderful to see you, Stephanie my dear.”

A soft kick to the dead Ringed girl’s shoulder, “I do wish you had played a little more nicely with my friend, though. It took me an age to find her.”

I make a deliberate show of re-sheathing my blade and taking a relaxed stance. Despite his jester’s demeanour, His eyes note every move I make. Nodding at the dead girl, I ask. “Why?”

His expression shifts to one of deep sincerity. “I missed you, Stephany,” He says. The bastard is telling the truth. He selected this girl, took an eye and dressed her as me so that he had someone to talk to…no. So that he had me to talk to. Had he really grown so used to having me around?

His eyebrows lift in faux nonchalance. “She was a lot less trouble than you, though, Stephanie. Although… you do have a certain way with you.” The shark grin returns.

“You know I’m here to kill you?” I ask flatly.

He lifts his club and performs a little flurry with it, twisting it around his fingers only to toss it overhead and catch it on his waiting foot. With a flick, he punts the club back into his waiting hand. Throughout his performance, my eyes watch his hands and feet for a hint of an aggressive twitch. The display is not a distraction. He’s simply happy to see me.

“Well of course, my darling. There’s no-one else I would rather dance with.”

Showing him a shark-smile of my own, I draw two of my knives.

“But…” He blurts, holding a hand out in front of him.

“As you’ve brought my dear friend Jimmy along on the trip, let’s say we have a civilised discussion before we engage in our dance. Get to know each other once again, maybe share a meal. I also have some interesting information to share with you and your little community.”

I’d forgotten the sharpness of his senses and his habit of scouting the area he’s in regularly. I rebuke myself silently at his mention of James and resolve to remember my lessons better in future, if I have a future.

Wondering how long Bracha has been watching us, I shake my head minutely. “No.”

Bracha sighs and leans back onto his club once again.

“Manners, Stephanie. What has happened to people’s manners in this city?” He looks at me expecting as response. I give him none.

A long resigned sigh comes from him. “Well, I suppose if you absolutely insist…” Allowing his golf club to thud to the ground, Bracha draws two of his favourite blades. His movements are much less smoothly executed than I’m used to. The cold and his injuries have shaved another portion of his speed and agility. My heart races as I realise that I’m faster than him now. I’m capable of a greater range of physical attacks also. I have a chance, so long as I don’t underestimate his decades of experience.

A wistful look replaces his predatory expression. Bracha nods at my Ringed doppelganger. “I can always make friends with you once again.” He crouches to the Ringed girl. Coating his knives in her blood and saliva he resumes his fighting stance.

“When you awaken.”

End of Excerpt

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dEaDINBURGH: Hunted (Din Eidyn Corpus 4) is available to pre-order now at Amazon

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dEaDINBURGH: Hunted Preview – Billy Boyd, The Eunuch

The scene that follows is an outtake and will most probably be fleshed out and added into the novel as a bonus story at the end of the main novel. The story takes place in an off-page scene from dEaDINBURGH: Vantage, during the scene where Joey leaves the Gardens to meet Alys on North Bridge and hunt Bracha at the Royal Infirmary.

Billy Boyd, the main character of the short, is my attempt to portray the effects that living in an all-female society that fears and hunts men would have on a young boy. Billy (the Eunuch) will feature heavily in book 4.

The following excerpt is  copyright of Mark Wilson and Paddy’s Daddy Publishing. It is unedited and comes from the forthcoming dEaDINBURGH: Hunted (Din Eidyn Corpus 4):

The Gardens

Edinburgh

2050

 

Billy creased his face, squinting against the low, cold Edinburgh sun hanging over princes Street, trying to determine if Joseph MacLeod was staring at him. He was. The worm in his guts writhed.

Men are supposed to be banished. What I went through…what I did to make sure I could stay here, and he….him, he just walks in, invited by Jennifer and her arrogant daughter. They’re even training him.

MacLeod waved down at him.

Arrogant bastard!

Returning his gaze to his hand-held plough, Billy Boyd shoved the wooden handle, driving the iron blades through the frosty earth beneath. Despite his height and having three years on the next oldest boy, Billy didn’t have the raw power of his younger peers. His muscular development and stamina had been stunted. Instead of being layered with firm muscle his chest was flat, skeletal really. His arms and legs and back hadn’t developed any real size or power with puberty. Facial hair hadn’t come. His voice sounded like a child’s… or a woman’s.

This is exactly what Billy had intended when he’d castrated himself at eleven years old. A simple elastic band and blade had prevented his pre-teen body from becoming what it might. Who wanted to be a man in a community that hated them enough to banish them?

Power, physical strength in the field would never be his, but he had other strengths, other talents, especially with plants and medicines.

Steven Campbell hissed at him. “Billy, quit that. We decided to ignore him.”

“Aye. I know.” Billy rasped.

I won’t ignore him forever though.

 

The seven lads of The Garden, ranging in age from wee Charlie Munnoch, aged ten, to William Boyd, aged sixteen, were a very quiet minority in their strict community. Each of them had been born inside The Garden’s fences, most of them after the banishment of the men. None of them had ever gone through its gates.

Men weren’t permitted to be Rangers.

Farmers, cooks, husbands, cleaners? Yes.

Rangers, no. Never.

They were treated as well as any other member of the community- at least that was the common perception- in reality, small things marked them out as different, as being watched. It was no secret that Jennifer Shephard, The Garden’s patriarch, hated men having driven them out some ten years previously. Whilst most of the women treated the boys with respect, Jennifer’s Rangers eyed them with suspicion.

Being in Jennifer’s presence was a storm of undisguised malice. Billy suspected that she’d happily have thrown the infant boys out of The Garden along with the men if she could have.  The boys were watched closely wherever they went. If a boy was alone with a girl, a Ranger or a parent would come sit nearby to keep an eye out.

Like watching a dog with your child.

Sometimes the boys were asked to leave if they were the only male present, so that the girls could relax. Most of the younger boys hadn’t noticed yet, but Billy and Steven had, and they resented it. They resented it more with each passing day, especially Billy, who’d taken such drastic measures to eliminate the threat of his maleness.

 

Billy watched Joseph MacLeod disappear effortlessly over the fence line onto Princes Street. Billy Boyd seethed that Joseph could leave The Gardens so easily. He swallowed a white hot lump of hate and drove his plough into the hard earth once more.

A crunch on the frost drew Billy’s attention. Lifting his chin, he watched Stephanie Kelly stomp her way across the lower fighting pit. She carried a bow she’d made from uPVC pipes in her right hand and wore a patch over her right eye socket and stoic expression that looked alien on her young face. Despite his mood, it startled him to see Steph this way.

Steph had been one of the few girls who’d remained his friend after he’d modified his body. She’d never once judged him and simply smiled, as she frequently did, whenever she saw him. People who are glad to see you were a rare thing for a boy from The Gardens. Steph had been a true friend and a comfort to him when he’d needed it most, simply by being decent to him, by making him laugh and by understanding how terrified he’d been of his approaching adulthood. She’d also defended him more than once from the taunts of other girls.

Tell some lies Eunochio.

Maybe they’ll grow back.

Idiots.

Cruel and heartless.

Females.

 

Billy watched his childhood friend crunch with purpose, bow in hand to the pit and sighed heavily to see her so joyless. So like him. The way he’d heard it, her cousin, Alys Shephard, had let some roaming madman hurt her. For Billy, it was yet another confirmation that the Shephards represented all that was wrong with his home.

End of Excerpt

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 dEaDINBURGH: Hunted is due for release on Kindle and Paperback on July 13th,2016. You can pre-order and  find Mark Wilson and his books at Amazon.

My Top 5 Indie Books

Independent authors are the new rock stars of the literary world. No doubt about it. From a slush-pile siege at it’s beginnings, the Indie-publishing revolution is beginning to see the quality wordsmiths and their publications rise to the surface.

If you’ve yet to explore the Indie publishing stable, I would urge you to seek out novels and stories by authors such as;

Craig Furchtenicht, Ryan Bracha, Keith Nixon, Gerard Brennan, Neil Cocker, Martin Stanley, the Near to The Knuckle team and Michael Logan, to name a few. These writers are producing excellent quality works and deserve an audience uninspired by the mainstream literature on offer.

If you simply need somewhere to start here’s my top 5 books produced by Indie/Hybrid authors.

N.B. (The books I’ve chosen are simply my personal favourites from an extensive list I’ve read over the last couple of years.

 

5. Eagle’s Shadow by Keith Nixon

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I’m a sucker for Roman history and Historical fiction. Nixon’s is one of the best I’ve read.

 

Blurb:

One man stands against the might of the Roman Empire. His name is Caradoc. 


In Rome a new Emperor, Claudius, accedes the throne. But he is politically weak, enemies who would take his place circle and plot. If he is to survive Claudius needs a triumph, one that marks him as a leader of men.

Claudius’s eye turns to the mysterious isle of Britannia, home of the supernatural Druids and brutal, wild-eyed warriors, reputed to fight naked. The place not even Julius Caesar could conquer.

AD43 and a massive invasion force, commanded by Aulus Plautius, lands on a tiny corner of Britannia. Caradoc, King of the country’s most powerful tribe, assembles an army to throw his enemy back over the water and into Gaul.

But divisions are rife and there are those who are secretly working with the Romans for their own benefit. The very future of the country is at risk and only one man can safeguard it…

4. Dimebag Bandits by Craig Furchtenicht

 

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Furchtenicht can do no wrong for me. He’s one of those writers you constantly strive to write like. Unpredictable, inventive and unafraid to buck convention. I’ve loved everything I’ve read by the big man. I’ve read Bandits 4 times now   

 

Blurb:

When Kori Woodson’s stepfather gives his entire college savings to a religious zealot’s campaign fund, he takes matters into his own hands. He steals drugs from his employer, who also happens to belong to the same church, and sells them to the bored housewives in the neighbourhood. When he is eventually caught he finds himself expelled from school, fired from his job and facing jail time.
Now his parents plan to travel the country on a mission to “Save the world from itself” with the church that has shunned him. With no other place to stay, Kori is forced to return to his real father’s home in rural Iowa. A place that he has not been to in over six years.

It is a far cry from the big city but his older brother, Brenden, and his motley crew of friends do not hesitate to take him right into the fold. Within hours of returning home, Kori gets caught up in the dangerous and potentially deadly trade of robbing drug dealers of their wares. He soon realizes that the people they work for can be even more of a threat than the people that they steal from.
Drugs, sex, money and death… It is all a day in the life of a Dimebag Bandit.

 

3. Life is Local by Des McAnulty.

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Des is the best kept secret in Indie-Publishing. In this single book he evokes more emotion and portrays more humour and callous, heart-breaking realism than many more experienced writers accomplish over a ten book catalogue. I’ve read and re-read Life is Local a dozen times and love it anew each occasion.

Do your soul a good turn and read Life is Local.

 

Blurb:

Motherwell 2002, College student Stevie Costello, trying to come to terms with the bizarre suicide of his ex-girlfriend Clare, dreams of a better life far away from his hum drum existence. First he must contend with his straight laced boss AlIistair, whose marriage to the breathtaking Marie is on the verge of collapse and his best friends Stubbsy and Lisa, whose hatred for each other explodes one night into an intoxicating love under a blazing Motherwell sun. Can Stevie somehow shake off the shackles of his surroundings or will he finally realise that love and life really is local?

 

2. Wannabes by Michael Logan.

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I stumbled across Wannabes whilst looking for another book. very grateful to have found it. excellent writing, insightful characters who are allowed to develop, great pace, music, angels, the devil, demons and God Himself. Awesome stuff.

Blurb:

From the winner of the inaugural Terry Pratchett First Novel Prize comes a new satire, which has been shortlisted for the International Thriller Writers Best E-Book Original Novel 2015 Award.

Celebrities are mobbing London’s laser clinics as a deranged wannabe bumps off A-listers, believing he can absorb their powers and become famous by taping their tattoos to his body. Washed-up pop star Jackie Thunder isn’t joining the stampede. Jackie figures that if he can get on the killer’s hit list, without the inconvenience of actually being murdered, he’ll gain the publicity needed to reignite his career. But there’s more at stake than Jackie can possibly imagine. Guiding the killer is Murmur, a minor demon with his own agenda to make a name for himself, and Jackie becomes an unwitting pawn in a decades-old plot to destroy great music through murder, mayhem and manipulation.

With humanity’s collective soul at stake, how far will Jackie go to reach the top?

 

  1. The Switched by Ryan Bracha

 

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The standout book for me. For creative fury, undiluted imagination and a complete lack of restraint, this book simply can’t be beat. Here’s my review.

 

Blurb:

What would you do if you were no longer you?

One summer morning, totally unconnected people wake up as somebody else. They have their names, their lives, and their problems. Nobody knows how or why it’s happened, and nobody knows if or when they’ll ever get their own lives back.

They must quickly learn to accept, adapt to, and in some cases embrace their new personas, if they are to survive in a world where the people known as The Switched will do anything to get their old bodies back from others who will desperately do anything to protect their true identity, and hide deep behind their new face.

Against the backdrop of a nationwide search for popular television presenter Francesca O’Reilly, whose very public breakdown and disappearance sparks chaos on social media, it quickly becomes apparent that the switching phenomenon is far more widespread than anybody could have known, and The Switched become the most famous people in the country.

Take a trip into the darkest corners of the darkest minds in this supernatural thriller, the blackest work yet by Ryan Bracha, the best selling author of Strangers Are Just Friends You Haven’t Killed Yet and the Dead Man Trilogy.

Mark Wilson is the author of eight fiction works and one non-fiction book. You can find Mark and his books at Paddy’s Daddy Publishing or at Amazon.

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy Two-Dicks – On The Seventh Day, Chapter 28 – Preview. 

In this section Jay (Jesus) has left his best friend behind and is facing Armageddon alone, aside from a big cop named Dougie. 

The following excerpt is from Mark Wilson’s upcoming novel, On The Seventh Day, available now for Pre-Order  



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Chapter
28

Crouched, arse half on a wall, at the base of Christ the Redeemer on the peak of Corcovado Mountain, Jay looked out over Rio de Janeiro. Lost in his own grief, his eyes did not see the city and neighbourhoods below. He never imagined that he could feel so alone. Not even held by iron pins to a wooden cross had he felt so completely abandoned. Then, he’d known that Heaven awaited him, that earth would continue and that humans might be enriched by his time amongst them. Even the knowledge that his Father would be waiting for him had strengthened his resolve to see the execution through to the last. Jay had also had Moses in Heaven fighting his cause. Moses had been there for Jay since the moment of his creation: an immovable force for goodness, a confidant, a fearless ally and, simply, a friend.

And now Mo was gone.

Jay was falling into the deepest loneliness he’d experienced in his existence.

Jay sighed heavily and turned to look up at the statue behind him. Arms wide, welcoming the world, Christ the Redeemer possessed all the peace, confidence and purpose he himself felt none of at that moment.  
Jay touched the pedestal of the statue, like a human would. For the first time he understood the human desire, the need, to make physical contact with an icon or statue. That hope that a portion of what one saw in the object might empower one, that some strength would heal a wounded spirit.

Feeling only soapstone, Jay pulled his hand back, shoving it deep into the pockets of his denims.

Bringing the sprawling city below into focus, Jay breathed deeply, filling his lungs with the smells of the mountain and his being with Heaven’s Light. Allowing himself to connect with the material world and Heaven’s immateriality simultaneously, with closed eyes he examined the intricacies of the people, the city and the mood below.

Excitement. Determination. Joy. Fear.

All the emotions and feelings he’d come to expect from a crowd of people anticipating his presence. As with all of the other cities he’d visited so far, there was no sense of pressing danger. Yes, there were elements of hate, people protesting his message, and him, but nothing immediately threatening.

Jay funnelled a larger portion of Heaven, at the same time diminishing his sense of the physical world around him, to the point where he was unaware of the stone and sand beneath his feet or the pedestal he leaned on.

With all of his ethereal senses he scanned the city for signs of Azrael.

Mo had told him that he had helped Azrael plan where and how her agents — human mercenaries who cared nothing for who paid them or why — would be most effective in riling and inciting the crowd. Hundreds of them, some dressed in Muslim attire, some posing as Christian fundamentalists or Jews, had seeded the crowd, sought out like-minded and fanned the embers of outrage until fires broke out, joined and became unstoppable swells of violence.

Jay doubted Azrael was present in the city below. She was too experienced to allow Jay the opportunity to sense her, and he would do so if she were nearby. Azrael was the Angel of Death, after all. She’d annihilated millions, razed whole cities, flooded the whole fucking world and all at God’s behest. Azrael left rather a large wake in the immaterial world, as well as the physical one.

Satisfied that no obvious threats lay below, Jay pulled himself back into the flesh, limiting himself once again to the physical plane.

“We should get going, Jay,” Dougie said.

The cop was standing next to him, having arrived whilst Jay’s attention was elsewhere.

Jay nodded. “Thanks, Dougie,” he said without looking at him.

Jay felt Dougie’s mood shift from all-business to concern.

Dougie planked his backside against the soapstone next to Jay’s.

“Did I ever tell you about Tommy Two-Dicks?” he asked.

Despite his morose mood, Jay let out a snort of laughter. “I think I’d remember if you had, Dougie,” he said, nudging him.

Dougie shrugged. Looking off into the distance, he folded his arms, relaxing against the pedestal at the foot of Christ the Redeemer.

“I was in the army, as a kid, y’know, before I became a copper.”

Jay nodded. Sometimes people did this — told him their story. It was natural for humans, especially when they accepted who and what he was. That Heaven was real and Hell was too. It made eternity loom large for them

He’d had the experience many times back in the Middle-East. It was how he’d met most of the apostles.

The compulsion wasn’t unlike what people felt sometimes when talking to a priest or other preacher. They liked to unburden themselves, especially when the end was coming.

With millions waiting for Jay below, and God only knew how many across the airways and internet, Dougie could’ve picked a better moment, but hell, he’d earned the right to say whatever he chose to Jay, whenever he chose.

“Aye. I knew that, Dougie. What’s on your mind?”

Dougie pointed out at the city below.

“People. That’s what being a soldier is about. At least, it was for me. Sure there are orders, Queen and country and all that, but in the end it’s about people.”

Dougie glanced at Jay, acknowledging his nod of agreement.

“When you’re a kid and you enlist, in your head it’s about good people holding back or fighting against bad people. You have all the permission, the justification you need to put a bullet in someone, or build a wall, or knock one down. Good guys, bad guys, simple.” Dougie held his hands out, palms up. “You get a bit older and the black and white simplicity of youth becomes greyer — a million shades of fuckin’ grey. The motives become murkier and the justifications more elaborate. Good and bad guys are replaced in your mind by awareness of political and corporate agendas that were always there but you were too naïve, or uneducated or selfish to notice.

“So you begin to feel the weight of being someone’s tool. You accept that people higher than you on the pay-scale make the decisions and you execute them. It can still be simple, if you want it to be.”

Dougie cast a glance again at Jay, who was nodding along.

“You get married, you start a family and you keep believing that what you do is good. Meaningful. That your superiors are privy to intel you aren’t. That you’re making a difference, being the good guy. Bringing your beliefs and standards to people who are oppressed. That the country you’re invading really needs you there, whether they want you and your superior culture or not.”

Dougie kicked at a rock, sending it flying out into the blackening sky.

“That the father with a rock in his hand, standing outside the shell of a home you just bombed into the dust, boy cowering behind him, is the enemy and not exactly what you would be if your roles were reversed. That your country did this cruel, heinous act for reasons of virtue you don’t comprehend, but desperately strain to accept on faith… That it was about people… and not oil.”

Dougie gave a long sigh. Jay placed a hand on his shoulder. “You are good man, Dougie.”

The big cop realised Jay thought that he was confessing or offloading and smiled. “This ain’t about me Jay,” he said. “It’s about Tommy Two-Dicks, remember?”

Jay smiled at his own assumption. He should have known better than to underestimate Dougie. He motioned for Dougie to continue.

“So Tommy Two-Dicks.” Noticing Jay grinning, Dougie offered a half-hearted smile of his own, acknowledging the ridiculous nickname. “He didn’t have two dicks, just behaved like a dog with two. Y’know? Happy as fuck all the time. First to volunteer for every job. Never complained, saw an opportunity for laughter in every task.”

Jay smiled in acknowledgment.

“Yeah,” Dougie continued. “Annoying cunt, so he was, but he was my best friend. Had been since the day we met.”

Dougie took a moment, replaying a memory he didn’t care to share with Jay.

“Anyway, my unit were making an arrest. Two middle-aged locals in Helmand. Chubby little guys, all jokes and waving hands when we arrived. Suspected of leaving IEDs along military routes. Pick up and detain. Simple.

“Four of us arrived in our transport and these two guys are standing at the roadside makeshift grill which is burning away, cooking fuck knows what, chugging cold water from bottles fished from an ice-filled cooler at their feet.

“We follow protocol. Park a hundred metres away, approach in formation, assess the environment, all the usual crap. There’s no-one else around, just these two guys having themselves a barbecue at the roadside. Nearest building is a bombed-to-fuck little house two hundred metres away.

“They’re dressed in fucking trousers and Man Utd tops; no weapons visible. Waving us over, one of them holding a slab of meat up with a long fork.

“‘Welcome, Americans…’ he’s shouting. Probably the only English he knows.

“I recall one of the guys grumbling about being taken for a fuckin Yank.

“So we’re on alert, but there’s on alert and on alert. We’re fairly confident that these guys are a couple of clowns. The only real potential danger is the ice-cooler, but bombs and watery ice don’t generally go too well, which means that as alert as we are, we’re also smelling the charred meat.

“Dooley, big guy, team leader, growls at me out the corner of his mouth, ‘Let’s get these pricks cable-tied and get some refreshments.’

“I remember shrugging.

“It goes unsaid: follow protocol. Secure the men and the area. It doesn’t need to be said because no-one, aside from the barbecue-boys, is even close to relaxed.”

Dougie whistles through his teeth, nodding. Acknowledging Jay’s knowing glance.

 “Yeah, everyone except Tommy Two-Dicks.”

Dougie kicks another stone across the dirt.

“Fuck knows whether Tommy’s brain has baked in the afternoon sun, or if he just fuckin’ loves steak, but he breaks formation, stows his rifle and runs half-pace straight towards these guys.

“Fuckin’ smallest one — little rectangular glasses propped at the end of his nose, looks like a school teacher — he fucking grins at Two-Dicks, waving the meat at him.

“Dooley yells at him, ‘Corporal McTavish, fall in!’

Tommy laughs, he actually fuckin’ laughs, and approaches the steak-waving motherfucker, waving us over, c’mon, guys.

“Dooley and I and the third guy — can’t remember his fuckin’ name — we fan out, try to cover both these happy barbecuing cunts without getting Two-Dicks in our line of fire.

 “Straight away, we clock how badly Tommy has fucked up. The two guys are fuckin’ pros.

“They shift positions, eyes on us the whole time, faces still smiling for Tommy’s benefit, but they’ve positioned themselves fuckin’ perfectly, placing Tommy in our line of fire. The older guy reaches down to the cooler, pulls off a three-inch-thick upturned lid, exposing the deep container beneath. Free from water and ice, it holds a fucking IED the size of an iPhone. The old cunt kicks the cooler over, leans in to touch it and falls to his knees. Steak-Waver starts laughing, but quickly falls to his knees, joining his mate in prayer.

“Tommy finally spots the set-up. He skids to a stop, maybe a metre away. We’re perhaps ten metres behind.

“Dooley does what all good leaders do and puts himself in harm’s way for his men. At a sprint he tears through the sand towards Two-Dicks. We didn’t have a clue how long the charge was set for. Tommy was already in range and now Dooley had joined the hot zone. What the fuck Dooley was thinking, I don’t know, he just acted on instinct.

“Tommy does this comedy double-take, back and forward for perhaps two seconds and gets this weird look, like he’s suddenly figured out what’s wrong with the world and accepted a burden of some sort. The happy, tail-wagging Labrador expression he’s worn his entire life vanishes and he runs at the IED.

“It’s laying face-down on the sand, thirty centimetres away from each of the barbecue-boys, almost exactly between them. They’ve made their peace and are clearly happy to take two coalition soldiers with them.

“Two-Dicks had other ideas.

“He threw himself into the sprint of his life, leaping onto the IED. Folding his body around it, Tommy held there for a second before being spread over thirty metres by the blast.

“In his head, I think the over-eager bastard thought he was gonna Captain America the shit out of the situation. Take the blast. Protect Dooley, bad guys’ death wish foiled.”

Jay’s eyes filled with sadness.

Dougie continued.

“The barbecue guys were killed instantly. One had his skull incinerated by the blast, the other had his chest opened. Dooley, who had got within five metres of the blast, lost most of his right arm, his face, his eyes and his left leg.”

“It’s a horrible story, Dougie. I’m really sorry you had to go through that,” Jay said.

“Yeah, well, like I said, I ain’t telling it for my benefit.”

Jay scrunched his eyes in confusion.

“Tommy Two-Dicks was a good bloke: heart of gold, found good in everyone, joy in everything. Couldn’t see people unhappy, loved life, loved his mates. Fucked up and put ‘em in harm’s way.”

Jay rubbed at the back of his head.

“I’m not angry with Mo, Dougie. I understand what He did. I’m all about peace and love and forgiveness… remember?”

“Dougie nodded. Yeah, Jay, I know, but that ain’t what I’m getting at. I told you, it’s about people. All of it is. Friends especially.”

Dougie lifted his backside from the stone. Moving around in front of Jay, he took his shoulders and gave him a gentle shake.

“Tommy tried to please his friends, and then protect his friends. He made a cunt of it. That’s what people do. He died. Mo’s still here. He won’t fuck up again. You have a chance to finish this thing together, with your best friend. Have you any idea what some people would give for that?”

Jay looked down at his feet.

Several long seconds passed whilst he chewed the inside of his cheek and thought hard about Dougie’s words.

Finally he looked into the big cop’s eyes.

“Thank you for trusting me with your story,” he said. He meant it. It was always a privilege when people… friends shared themselves with you. Especially when they were trying to save you pain they had suffered.

“But it’s different for us. Mo and I. We have eternity. When this is over, we return to… our existence. We’ll be exactly as we were before. Unchanging.”

Dougie straightened his posture. A tic of annoyance pulled at his cheek.

“Forgive me, Jay, but if you believe that, you’re a fucking fool.”

Jay smiled at him. A smile that held thousands of years of knowledge, of confidence, of certainty that Dougie could not comprehend. An unintentionally condescending smile that said you’re a mortal. You can’t understand.

Dougie spotted it immediately and turned away briefly before whirling back around. He wasn’t angry, just determined.

“People are people, Jay, and friends are friends. You’re wrong about this. Everything’s changed between you and Mo, but you do have a chance to repair it, before it ends. If you can’t do that… why should any of these people believe you can save them?”

Dougie didn’t wait for an answer. Treading off downhill into the night, he waved, beckoning Jay to follow after.

“Either way, boss,” Dougie said over his shoulder, “let’s get going. There are people waiting for you to give them all the answers.”

End of excerpt. 

This excerpt is from Mark Wilson’s upcoming novel, On The Seventh Day, available now for Pre-Order  

On The Seventh Day – Chapter 5 Preview

Throughout the novel I chose to alternate between two sets of protagonists. Jay and Mo (whose chapters are written using modern, and coarse language) and Nick and Beth (whose chapters are more formal and geological in tone). Hope you enjoy. 

  
The following excerpt is un-proofed and in-edited and is taken from the forthcoming novel, On The Seventh Day, available to pre-order now at Amazon:

5 

Nick and Beth

 

Beth reached over the bar, placing a hand on top of Nick’s. “Is it painful? Telling me your history?” She asked.

Nick narrowed his eyes, thinking about the question. Finally he said,” no. It’s not, but it’s hardly the first time I’ve vented to a stranger.”

“Why me?” asked Beth.

Nick shrugged. Mostly timing and circumstance. Right place, right time,” he said.

“Mostly?” She asked.

“We’ll get to that later, Bethany,” Nick said softly. “I have a story to tell first.”

Beth’s eyes flashed fear, but she hid it quickly behind a sip of her vodka and a smile.

 

“Where was I?” Nick asked.

Beth drained her drink before answering. She felt like she’d been drinking for days. Exhaustion crept on her.

“Water,” she said, “Water and life.”

Nick nodded once in thanks.

“Yes. Water and Life. The moment when everything in Heaven and in the material universe was irretrievable altered.”

Nick smiled warmly at her before continuing.

“Water, lightning and some chemicals, that’s all it took.”

“It was random?” Beth asked.

“Yes and no,” Nick replied.

“The lightning, the spark was intentional. He meant to begin the process. What came after, He left to chance…no not chance, nature.” A shadow of sadness passed over Nick’s face as he spoke.

“God made the atoms and molecules form into nucleic acid, DNA. Proteins formed, membranes, organelles. Cells combined, proliferated. Others went extinct. This simple snuffing of a cell shocked Angels whose lives were unlimited by time, or health or predatory chance. That a spark of life, even one so small, could be snuffed out was abhorrent to us in our eternal lifespans. God reassured us that it was all in nature. Part of life.

Billions upon billions of identical cells emerged from one common ancestor. Some adapted, some disappeared from the gene pool forever. Groups of cells formed bonds or fused together, forming tissues, or other structures. The single-celled inhabitants of a pool of water adapted into a myriad of multicellular creatures. Simple organisms. Some photosynthesised food. Some didn’t. Some hunted. Most perished.

All who survived adapted in some way. Muscle, teeth, fins, gills. Some became simple worm-like creatures, or fish-like organisms. Others adapted to become plants. Hundreds of millions of years passed. Billions of organisms, whole species lived short lives and died.

Angels wept for their brief existence.

Adaptations, evolution continued. Rudimentary life found a way to survive, to adapt, to become complex life. Animals with eyes and mouths…faces emerged. Simple things, who fed and bred and not much else, but they had faces.”

Nick looked deep into Beth’s eyes, causing her to shrink back a little.

“You cannot fathom the clamour that this simple development-a creature with a face- sparked in Heaven. Angels flocked to God. ‘What does it mean? They have faces? Is it blasphemy? Does the existence of creatures with faces mock you my lord?’

It seems an absurd reaction I’m sure, Beth but consider this. We were God’s only creations, made in His own likeness by His own hand. We looked like Him. We had faces.

That nature, evolution had created an organisms with a structure so closely resembling one of our own, by random chance, seemed a heresy.”

Beth grinned.

“Yes,” Nick said. “Seems ridiculous to you, I agree, but you were born into a world where a face was the first thing you saw. In all of Heaven and God’s good universe until that moment, only God’s creations, His Angels, had faces. That these random mutations of nature had produced a creature with such a structure was truly terrifying to us.”

“Yeah, I suppose I can get that. Faces…terrifying,” Beth said, sarcasm lacing her tone.

Nick rolled his eyes.

“God- calm as he’d been since our creation- spoke to us, His Angels, gently, reassuring us that all was as he intended, part of nature. ‘Observe, my Angels. See what nature does next. Trust in me.’ Of course, we did trust in God and followed his advice. We witnessed the development of brains, simple but entirely functional. Ears, limbs skeletons, nervous systems, kidneys, hearts, livers pulsed and beat their way into existence. The rate of development was astonishing to us. You must understand, Beth, time is…different in Heaven. We existed for many millions, perhaps billions of years, before God created the universe. Time passed for us, but didn’t. Things changed, adapted I suppose, but nothing was diminished, only magnified by its passing.

Change occurred in Heaven but only as we willed it, not at the mercy of nature and not on the scale that life was adapting in the Universe. It seemed to us that time passing in the material universe simply meant death. Once an unnoticed companion to us in Heaven, time now seemed to stalk the material world. To us, the evolution present in the universe and the death that drove it was truly shocking.

I’ve been talking about evolution of creatures on earth, but this was happening on countless planets, throughout the universe.” Nick had spread his arms in a broad gesture.

“The unrelenting speed; the efficiency of nature in stimulating these frighteningly effective adaptations in animals and plants, shook us. We returned to God once more, in greater numbers than before. ‘Lord. Look what matter, what nature has done. Fish have grown legs and lungs and crawl the earth. Faces look to the skies. When will it stop?’

God’s patience with us in our ignorance seemed eternal at that time. He merely smiled kindly and allayed our fears.

As his first Creation, his closest companion, I was hurt in another manner by what unfolded in nature, so I asked God. ‘There is a spark of life in them, a light, not unlike our own ethereal light. When they die, does it come home to you, my Lord?’

I had witnessed God create matter and I had witnessed it change and evolve from basic chemicals, to the first cells and into a myriad of living animals and plants. The light inside each of the billions of cells was so familiar to me that it may as well have been part of my own self. I was in conflict. Where did this light go upon their deaths? Did their consciousness reside in the spiritual part of themselves and if so how can God suffer them to die and this light to just dissipate? If that’s what truly happened.

I didn’t really believe that He would allow these organisms to suffer such brief lives and their light to dissipate. That would be cruel. God was not cruel, He was the source of all love and warmth in Heaven and the universe. He was the Creator. But the questions remained as thorns in my subconscious.

Did God in creating this abundance of life, share his own light amongst them? He hadn’t seemed diminished in any way by the act of Creation. If anything he’d seemed magnified. Was he receiving the light of these creatures back into himself upon their death? I knew for a fact that he wasn’t, we would have witnessed the entry of such light in Heaven. Despite this knowledge, I was also certain that he must have a plan, a destiny for this light of life; otherwise the whole experiment of the universe, life, was the cruellest punishment imaginable.

Consider a brief life in the material universe followed by just… nothing? I couldn’t abide the thought. In hindsight, that moment was when I began to lose my trust in God and became his Accuser.

I recall Him looking into my eyes. ‘You must trust in me, my Angel. There is a plan.’ I nodded and prayed and made all the right noises, Beth, but something crucial and irreparable had broken inside me. Despite this, it would take many years, uncountable trillions of deaths and the evolution of humankind to set me firmly on my course.

 

God, of course, reassured time and again that all was in nature. All was intended. Many Angels made a choice to trust God and merely observe. Other turned away from watching nature’s progress altogether, returning to those concerns in Heaven that had busied them before God had created the universe. I resolved to be and remain The Watcher.

End Of Excerpt

On The Seventh Day is available to pre-order now at Amazon

“God Hates You.” – On The Seventh Day; Free Chapter and Pre-Order

The following excerpt is unedited and comes from Mark Wilson’s upcoming novel On The Seventh Day, which can pre ordered at Amazon Now:

redeemer-red=Final copy

1

 Nick

Nick took in the room, his top lip curling into a sneer. It was just His kind of place, all thin veneer, expensive wines and whiskies and coke in the bathrooms. Ordering a gin and tonic for himself and a double Auchentoshan for Stewart, Nick slipped his smartphone from his pocket and reminded himself of a few key details in his notes.

Ten years at level Two,

Four years at Level Three.

Further education programme complete.

Dedicated and enthusiastic approach demonstrated consistently by the candidate.

All phases of training complete.

Recommend promotion to Level One.

Nick didn’t really need to read the notes, he had committed the candidates’ details to memory, it comforted him to read the words, settled his nerves. The gin helped also. She was ready, no doubt about it, but Stewart had the final say, and he’d take some convincing, despite the candidate’s exemplary performance. He always did need convincing, but particularly when the candidate was a woman.

Spotting Stewart passing the restaurant’s window. Nick took a belt from his gin and relaxed his face into business mode, ridding it of any signs of anxiousness or enthusiasm. Stewart was best approached calmly.

Never one to make an understated entrance, Stewart crashed through the doors, barking loudly at the Maître D who’d rushed to greet him, reaching for his jacket.

“Get tae fuck, son. Make yourself useful and bring me a double Macallan ’39.”

Stewart strode around the bar to the rear left corner of the room. Hair, long, curled, blonde and mulleted, dressed in denims, expensive cowboy boots, leather jacket-unzipped to show a the art of his T-shirt- a nun fingering herself and the legend Jesus is a cunt- Stewart looked like an expensively-dressed red-neck. His accent was all Lanarkshire.

That fucking accent.

He yanked the seat back and snorted loudly, into his nose. The gurgling, crackling movement of thick phlegm being dragged from his nostrils into his mouth threatened to break Nick’s composure before a word had passed between them.

Grabbing the back of his heavy, leather-padded chair, Stewart screeched it a few feet away from the table. Nick watched as his boss flicked his eyes up to drill into his own. As Stewart’s eye’s danced with cruel amusement, he let a long tail of yellow-green gunge slide from his lips into the glass of Auchentoshan on the table below.

Watching the deposit bob and swirl around for a second, he took his chair, shoving the glass over to Nick.

“Get that shite off the table, Nick. Fuck sake.”

The Maître D arrived, Stewart’s Macallan swirling in a heavy-bottomed glass and an ice bucket on a silver tray.

Unacknowledged he silently slid the glass and the ice within reach of Stewart, who snatched the glass up and drained its contents.

Stewart slammed the class onto the table-top.

“Keep them, coming,” he said.

Nick nodded at the Auchentoshan-nasal deposit mixture, which the Maître D scooped up. “I’d have drank that, Stewart.”

“Fuck all stopping ye, son,” Stewart said, fishing his lighter and cigarettes from his jacket pocket. He scanned Nick’s face, waiting for a come-back. None came.

Nick watched as Stewart, went through the little series of gestures and rituals he performed when having a cigarette. Tap the end on the table, smooth the filter and rotate it on the moist lips for a second. He caught sight of the upside down lucky fag in the packet as Stewart tapped and licked his chosen tab.

“No smoking in here, Stewart.”

“What they gonnae dae?” he asked touching the petrol flame to the end of his cigarette.

Nick sighed. “Do we have to do this again?”

Stewart’s eyebrow lifted as he considered whether or not he could bothered winding the cunt up. Finally, his head cocked a little to the side in acquiescence.

“Look, Nick. These cunts in here won’t say a word, I guarantee it.”

Nick gave him a nod.

“Fine,” he said, happy that his boss would take care of the smoking issue discretely for once.

Taking a long drag on his first Regal King- size Stewart regarded Nick, amusement dragging the corners of his mouth into a tight, snide grin.

“Where is this cow, then?” Stewart asked, enjoying Nick’s discomfort.

Very quickly, Nick’s face shifted from discomfort to flushed anger.

“Christ sake, Stewart. Give her a chance.” Sick of the same old shit, the tired routine, he spat the words across the table.

Stewart blew a cloud of swirling, blue-hazed smoke out the side of his mouth, face rigid with anger of his own.

“Who the fuck are you talking to, Nicholas?”

Nick knew that he should back down. When Stewart got like this, there was little chance of shifting his mind on something. They’d worked together for more years than Nick could recall. Nick, training the candidates, tutoring them to develop the skills and mind-set needed to be promoted, to earn a place upstairs with Stewart’s team. Stewart taking the credit when presenting a new Graduate to his staff.

Christ, it was gruelling and thankless, but without Nick and his department, Stewart would take only those he considered the very best. The people of a certain station and type. He’d always been an elitist prick, but Stewart had got worse, more prejudice with age. His expectations and list of demands for the attributes a successful candidate must possess had become almost impossible to fulfil. Still, that was the point. Stewart wanted Nick’s department fucked, once and for all, leaving him free to decide for himself the criteria for promotion.

Given his own way, Stewart would pass over so many candidates, who’d never have the opportunity to work, develop or improve themselves to the required level.

This was the reason Nick’s department was founded and the reason he took so much shit from Stewart. If not him, then who? Nobody else could take working in effective opposition to Stewart. It helped that they were best-friends and had been their whole lives…out of office hours at any rate.

Nick’s stomach lurched as Stewart glared across the table at him. His apology forming in his vocal cords. Nick pushed it back and listened to the wee part of himself that had got him his department assigned in the first place.

“I’m talking to you, Stewart. Back the fuck off.”

Stewart’s eyebrows creased in the centre, his scowl brought ice to Nick’s heart. Fuck. Wrong choice.

Standing, Stewart’s eyes widened in fury. His eyes tore the air between them, smoke shooting through his nostrils.

“You remember who I am and who the fuck you are.” Stewart stabbed at Nick’s chest, his strong finger, digging deep into the flesh.

“You’re a fucking cog, son. A bureaucrat. By fuck you’re practically my damned secretary. You should be under this table with your overactive lips on my cock. It’s about all you’re good for.”

Shocked into silence, Nick assessed his options for a moment as Stewart glared over the table at him. Relaxing his shoulders, Nick decided to push his luck.

“Yes, well you’d know better than I the qualities in possession of a skilled oralist.”

A beat passed. Stewart’s expression melted.

“Aye, you’re right there, Nick,” He laughed, all anger gone.

Stewart nodded over at the waiter who was making his way to the table.

“Might make that one give me a blowy just now.”

Nick peered across the room, assessing the man.

“He’s a bit lardy for your tastes, is he not?”

Stewart shrugged.

“Aye, but he’s a good height. Big laddies like that have always a grand big boaby on them. Who gives a fuck if he’s carrying a bit ay timber round the waist?

Exasperated, Nick shook his head. Stewart had been having a gay phase for years now, which was fine, but recently he’d been a bit too obsessed with girth and length. Pushing ma boundaries, son. He’d said. Nick reckoned that acting the size queen was beneath his boss, but figured that his temporary obsession with big dicks was an improvement from the heroin phase Stewart had thrown himself into some years earlier. The boss got catholic as fuck on the smack; he was more balanced on the cock.

Stewart could have this coked-up big laddie on his knees under the table, his balls resting on the waiter’s chin in two minutes…easy. Such was the power of his persuasion, wealth and status. Just last week he’d had six-foot nine England International gobbling him as we ate at the Twickenham Social club, interviewing another candidate. The poor bastard left the restaurant, Stewart’s spunk still to hit his stomach, wondering how the fuck he’d ended up noshing the old man in full view of the entire restaurant as Stewart sucked back oysters, muttering the odd instruction as he consigned the candidate in front of him to another stint on Level Two.

If Stewart decided he wanted something, it happened. Simple as that.

“Just leave him, Stewart. We’ve better things to do,” Nick said, nodding at the woman making her way to their table.

Stewart grunted non-committedly, assessed the waiter for a full, uncomfortable second, and then waved the lad away.

“Just more drinks, son. We’ll order in half an hour,” he said.

The red-haired woman, impeccable suit, hair tight in a bun, heels like stilts, walked elegantly towards them. She had dressed perfectly and displayed all the physical cues and mannerisms Nick had spent so many hours teaching her. A good start. He thought.

 

 

∞∞∞

 

 

Taking the blonde man’s hand, I smile at him broadly and look deep into his eyes. Nick warned me of the effect his eyes and voice would have on me, he was right. The eyes are lagoon-blue; warm and hard at once they search your soul and pull you into his influence which seems to fill the room. His voice is seductively brutal as he welcomes me gruffly. I feel my pulse race and I remind myself of Nick’s words- everything depends on this man’s decision. You’ll have perhaps five minutes, maybe ten maximum– and steel myself.

I take a moment to flip through the various buzzwords and phrases we’ve practiced. Despite, Him, His presence and the overwhelming desire to flee, the nerves aren’t showing. The burns from the ligatures on my wrists and ankles and the gouges in my thigh sharpen my focus and keep me in the moment.

I almost feel proud of myself, but catch the stray thought. No pride. He hates pride and arrogance. Nick pulls a chair for me. I look to Him for permission. Without looking at me, he makes an offhand gesture that I should sit and lights his next cigarette from the smouldering butt of the last.

Pulling myself towards the table, I remind myself to sit straight, to look him directly in the eye at all times and to never, ever forget that He will decide what future I’ll have.

∞∞∞

 

She was doing well so far, remembering all the little mannerisms he’d taught her. She’d displayed contrition, enthusiasm, respect and confidence, all in the first thirty seconds of meeting Stewart. She’d dressed well, blue-grey business suit, not too pissy, not too slutty. She carried herself well, in control, professional but hungry to work. A poppy seed sized speck of hope began to germinate. The last seven had been total failures, sent back downstairs within three minutes of meeting the boss. It had been a prolonged bad run, one that would fuel Stewart’s justification for having Nick’s department buried. He needed a win here tonight. So far Stewart seemed to have decided to consider the girl.

Stewart took a long draw on a Regal, eyeballing her as he inhaled. Nick clenched his arse cheeks, recognising Stewart’s let’s bury this bitch face.

“Mary. How do expect to make it to Level One when you’re such a fucking heartless little bitch?” Stewart’s voice was gentle, kind even. He genuinely wanted to know.

To her credit, Mary didn’t flinch.

“Sir, I know the mistakes I’ve made and I’ve worke…”

“Piiiiiish!” Stewart bellowed at the top of his voice. The waiter looked over, but checked away instantly not wishing to offend the spending customer.

Stewart jabbed a finger at Mary. “That’s a load ay pish, hen and ye fuckin’ know it.”

Softening his face, the kindly uncle-figure emerged and he placed a hand gently on Mary’s which rested on the table.

“Look, Mary-hen. Work isn’t an excuse to leave yer weans in fucking nursery all day. Or impose upon your poor fuckin’ parents. Seventy-eight years old and worked every day of their miserable lives, just at the point where they can fuck off tae a tiny villa on the coast of whichever slightly-sunny, shitehole they can still afford after spunking their money on you and your siblings over thirty years. And you? You have the fuckin’ cruelty in you to land them with a screaming, shitey-arsed infant so you can develop your career?” Stewart makes quote marks with his fingers in the air.

“That’s cold as fuck, hen.”

Nick barely manages to keep his expression neutral. He’s certain that Mary will snap and give the usual justifications.

Providing for my child.

Working every hour spare to have a better future.

My parents support me, they raised an educated woman for a reason.

Single mothers working hard enough for two parents.

 

Stewart would tear through that bullshit in the blink of a Jap’s-eye. She was fucked if she bit back.

Mary nodded respectfully at Stewart. “You’re absolutely right, sir. I made far too many mistakes. I really believed with all of my heart that my son would benefit from a strong mother, who provided for him and gave him a hard-working, determined and courageous role-model. I truly believed that.”

Mary bowed her head in a genuinely contemplative, penitent gesture.

“My son did well for himself; he’s a lawyer, pro-bono. He helps so many people. We…we were close, but he lives so far away now. I guess we just sort of got used to being separate.”

Stewart nodded along as she spoke.

“My kid, I’m so proud of him. He’s a great father, never puts anything before his kids.”

Stewart leaned back, tugging hard on his cig. Blowing the smoke across the table, he winked at Nick.

“You don’t deserve this chance. You’re a selfish little bitch whose only contribution to life has been a nice pair of heels, punctuality and a fucking clean house. Your kid has learned how not to be a parent form you, Mary. That’s the fuckin’ truth of it.”

All pretence of nonchalance was gone from Nick’s face and his body language. This was the fatal blow that Stewart delivered to propel each candidate to anger. Make them feel hard done by. Reveal any lingering pride or false justifications they hid behind and force them to show their true colours.

Nick was unashamedly desperate for Mary to take the hit, to accept that Stewart was an unmatched cunt of epic proportions, but that he was the gateway. And that ultimately the cunt was right.

She needed to forgive herself and swallow back on any injustice she felt. She needed desperately to forgive herself for something she considered to be a good choice when she’d made it. She needed to forgive Him for dragging her painfully over the sword she’d forged in her own lifetime.

Mary closed her eyes taking the long seconds she needed to compose herself. Nick sagged in his seat, waiting for the usual outburst. The rant, the litany of excuses and justifications and outrages, candidates resorted to. Stewart sipped on his Macallan and fought to hide a grin.

Mary…..Mary simply opened her eyes and spoke softly. Her voice was small, but strong, firm but respectful.  Like an angel’s.  All of Nick’s lessons were meaningless in this moment.

“I know. I don’t deserve the glory of your Kingdom, my Lord. But I forgive myself for the mistakes I’ve made. I accept who I am and I see you for the absent parent of a Creator that you are and forgive you for that also. All mistakes are my own. All pain, deserved. Do with me as you will.”

Nick’s heart sang.

Stewart downed a double Macallan and scowled. Mary simply bowed her head, closed her eyes and spread her arms in acceptance of His judgement.

Mary vanished in a startling cacophony of light her entire being swept and propelled upwards, bathed in heavenly radiance and warmth.

“You’re a fucking jammy cunt, Nick,” Stewart spat across the table.

Nick’s mouth hung open in disbelief but only for a beat.

“Yes, well. Even our heavenly Creator has a bad day every once in a while, Stewart.”

Business-mode vanished and Stewart’s face stretched into a wide, self-satisfied grin.

“Where’d you find her? How’d you pull that off, ya snidey basturd?”

Nick shrugged.

“You know how it goes. They come to me down in Sheol, angry, disillusioned, indignant and in disbelief of a God who could be so cruel. So heartless.  I torture and burn and brutalise them. I force them to relive each and every cruelty.   I teach them to forgive you for being an uncaring God. An almighty deity who allows suffering and persecution and hate and disease to run rampant through the human race.”

Stewart glared at his adversary and best-friend.

“You magnify my glory by sending me pure souls, more able to embrace the grand experiment I’ve set in motion.”

Nick regarded his creator. The being who’d created him, and set him as his adversary after he’d argued that the humans had the capacity to long, strive and reach for Heaven. After he’d convinced the Almighty that humankind were out of nature, capable of attaining the spiritual heights of the very Angels He had fashioned in his own image.

Stewart’s face began to shine the radiance that all of his Angels, even the fallen ones craved…required to sustain themselves.

“Light-Bringer…Nick. You were the most diligent of my Angels, my most trusted friend… and then you fell in love with the humans. What a fuckin’ wasted career you’ve had, son.”

Nick regarded the drink in his hand for several moments, then leaned across table six. Taking his best-friend’s hand he whispered quietly.

“My Lord, I will be your opponent until the legions of souls in Hell are elevated to Heaven. Until I can teach each of the souls who come to me that the path to glory is forgiveness. Forgiveness of your callous disregard of their spirituality and capacity for greatness. Forgiveness for the rape, torture, genocide and hate that you allow to proliferate because you think the humans beasts, like  each of those you created to prowl and slither and scutter across the earth .

They are not. They have transcended you and the need for the idea of you. Each and every soul I send to you magnifies your greatness. I will send a torrent of eligible souls to you. I will empty Hell and increase your glory.”

Stewart lit another Regal King-Size and eyed his eternal adversary and best-friend.

“Fancy the calamari, Nicky?” He asked.

Nick grinned. I do, chief. I do.

∞∞∞

Nick sat back into the padded leather armchair set in the lounge of the gentlemen’s club they’d moved to after eating. He hated this sort of place, so archaic, but Stewart favoured the range of whiskies they stocked in the bar. Despite the earlier interview and Nick’s little victory, they’d had a cracking night. It’d been centuries since they’d laughed so easily in each other’s company, it felt like old times, back before Nick had taken on his current role.

Despite the moment, Nick scanned his friend’s face and decided to break the spell.

“When will it end Stewart?” He asked.

“What?”

“Your petty need to deny that humans are out of nature. That they are spiritual entities.”

“For fuck sake, Nick. Again?” Stewart asked.

“Always,” Nick replied.

Stewart bit back on his growing anger, leaned across the little table between them and asked simply, “You’ve given yourself over to serving them for eternity, old friend. Why do you love them so much?”

“Why don’t you?” Nick asked.

“They’re just animals, Nick. They have their place in this world, in nature, not with us.”

“I’ve disproved that many times.”

“No you haven’t,” Stewart snapped. “You’ve sent me a fraction of souls from all the humans who’ve ever existed. These are simply rare abhorrent amongst the species. They are what I created them to be.”

“I’ll never accept that, Stewart.” Nick drained his glass.

“Just look at how they behave, how they treat each other and the planet I gave them. They’re pushing their luck, Nick.” Stewart said.

Screeching his heavy chair back, Nick stood.

“Fuck this. I’m done with this tonight.”

Nick left without looking back at his friend, boss and creator who had begun to work himself up into a fury and was making his way towards the unfortunate barman who would bear the brunt of his anger.

Nick stepped out into the street, changed his mind about heading home and went in search of a late night bar. He didn’t have to walk far, you never did in these Northern towns. Entering the first pub he encountered, Nick felt his shoes attach to the tacky floor as he crossed to the bar.

The barmaid, wiped the rim of a glass with a filthy towel and smiled. “What you after?” she asked.

Nick nodded at a tap. “Pint of Carling and a double Bushmill’s please, love.”

Fetching a glass, she pulled on the lever he’d indicated, sending foaming, amber liquid swirling into the glass.

“Tough day?”

Nick grinned humourlessly. “Tough eternity, darlin’,” he replied.  She looked at him quizzically for a moment, before fetching his whiskey.

An urge to unburden himself and vent to this stranger came over him. This happened to him often in bars. Nick looked around the bar. Aside from a semi-conscious drunk, the place was dead. The barmaid plonked his pint and short on a sodden beermat next to his hand.

“Take one for yourself, love and come join me,” he told her. “”I’ll tell you all about it.”

She smiled at him, looked around the empty bar and poured herself a Grey Goose before sliding over to lean on the bar across from him.

“So long as you’re paying, I’m listening,” she said.

Nick smiled sadly. “Might take a while…”

“Beth,” she said.

Nick nodded. “I’m Nick. Might take a while, Beth.”

Regarding him, Beth took in his appearance, decided that he looked interesting enough, or perhaps that he had deep pockets judging by his expensive suit and reached for a bottle of Grey Goose. Placing it onto the counter she leaned onto the wooden surface and swirled the ice in her vodka around the glass.

“Fire away, Nick.”

Thanks for reading. Mark Wilson’s upcoming novel On The Seventh Day, which can pre-ordered at Amazon Now:

Bracha’s Origin – dEaDINBURGH: Origins Excerpt

Taking my favourite, heroic ginger Royal and twisting him into a psychotic, sadistic survivalist was (to date) the most fun I’ve had writing a novel. Please enjoy.

Mark

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

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Chapter 1

 Edinburgh

Hogmanay

2014

11:50 pm

 “I’m not interested, Jimmy. You fire in.”

He throws me a smile that’s not really a smile at all. It’s laced with sarcasm and judgement. Letting his raised eyebrows mock me for a few seconds, he finally turns his attention to the young lass.

“I will,” he says, leering at her legs.

Leaving our booth, Lieutenant James Kelly staggers on strong but wobbly legs across the carpet to unload his spiel on the unsuspecting girl in the red dress, completely oblivious to the wedding ring on her finger or the husband in the toilets. Jim’s had a few drinks, but he’s entitled. Besides, I’m designated babysitter tonight, subsequently limited to two drinks.

Harry, who’s in better shape but approaching tipsy, reaches across the table and drops a note.

“Fifty quid he earns himself a generous kick in the testicles.”

“Fuck off, Spike,” I tell him. He snatches the strangely-coloured note back.

“Right. For fuck sake.”

Despite myself I laugh. I always do. It’s his voice. It always makes me laugh when he swears using that clipped, so very proper accent of his. So at odds with who and what he actually is.

I throw a twenty of my own on top of his purple twenty, both bearing his grandmother’s likeness, and give him my thickest Lanarkshire accent.

“Right then, fanny-baws. Twenty sheets it is.”

He laughs loudly at me.

“Nice,” he says. “Don’t often let the…” He pauses for a few seconds, searching for the phrase. “Schemey. You don’t often let your schemey origins show, Cameron.” He laughs at his own use of the colloquialism.

“Aye, well. You’re being an especially excellent example of your kith and kin tonight, Harry,” I tell him. I hardly ever call him by name. All the lads call him Spike. Always have.

The ever-so-posh demeanour and bumbling, upper-class moron act he uses, which we call his Bruce Wayne persona, couldn’t be further from the man I’ve known for a third of my life. The soldier, the professional killer, the assassin who sits opposite me is not the man his public buys into. The jovial, ruddy-faced, red-haired buffoon he plays for the public and the media. Captain Wales, Apache-pilot. An officer and the poshest of gentlemen. This image carefully crafted and maintained by the ministry, so often useful as a mask and diversion, betrays not a sliver of who Spike really is.

Jim Kelly and I have been his shadows since Sandhurst. Employed to protect a killing machine. The thought is laughably ironic, as though Spike had ever feared anything or anyone. We trained and bled and laughed and drank and killed alongside him during his rigorous training in the Army Air Corps and then Special Division and on every Black-Ops mission since.

Captain Wales, according to official records, completed two heroic tours in Afghanistan based at Camp Bastion, Helmand province. His presence there was kept secret for the months of his tour, to both protect the men serving beside him and allow the young soldier the privacy to perform his duty. To be one of the troops.

Of course, cameras followed from a distance, filming him. Showing him mucking in like any other man of his rank and duty. A promise from the media, a gentlemen’s agreement, to not break the story until his unit were safely home was respected. A year later an admiring public watched with admiration as the news crews showed footage of the young captain doing his duty.

A substantial morale boost to the troops, his presence lingered for months following his departure, motivating the men who remained or replaced.

Ask any of the soldiers stationed there during that time, and they’ll tell you, “Great patriot. One of the lads. True professional.”

And they wouldn’t be lying: the man they served with was all of those things. He just wasn’t actually Captain Wales.

The genuine article, Spike we call him, long story, was in Syria, doing his real job.

I cut him a look, marvelling as I always do at how effectively this man masks who he really is beneath a veneer of joviality and haphazard clumsiness.

“I might be a schemey,” I smile at him, “but that lassie over there is all class. He’s getting sent packing.”

I jab a thumb at Jimmy who, one hand on her knee the other trying to get the attention of the barman, is laying it on thick for the lady in red.

“Watch this,” I say.

Harry flashes his best smile, the one we call his camera smile. All perfect teeth and carefree attitude, a mask for the iron-veined soldier underneath. The Batman persona.

“Yes, all right then, Cameron. Let’s see, shall we?”

His confidence, borne of generations of status, wealth and breeding, but also from hundreds of hours of Black-Op missions and killing, oozes from every pore.

We watch as the girl accepts the drink – a single-malt, no ice – and gently removes James’ hand from her thigh where it’s crept. She talks politely for a few short minutes then firmly ushers him back to our table. He walks slowly back to us, arms spread like Jesus, all attrition and mock repentance.

“She’s gay,” he tells us, sheepishly, despite his demeanour.

Spike’s laugh fills the booth.

“Of course she is, my boy. What rotten luck.” His affection is genuine.

I pick up my winnings from the table as Jim plonks himself back into the comfortable leather bench of the booth.

Spike juts his chin towards the bar.

“My round, I believe, chaps. Same again?”

Jim burps loudly, exaggerating the noise. “I’ll have a pint this time, Spike,” he says, Edinburgh accent thickening as his sobriety thins.

I take the fifty from Spike’s hand. “I’ll go,” I say.

His lips thin but he doesn’t argue with me. He knows we could do with some peace and quiet. It’s almost midnight and people are busy getting excited about seeing another year end and one begin, but as soon as he leaves the relative privacy of the booth, cap pulled down over his eyes and bushy red hair or not, someone will clock that famous face of his and our night will be over.

The lady in red catches my eye as I approach the bar and waves me over.

“Your pal. He all right?” Her husband’s back at her side and giving us a puzzled look.

“Aye,” I say, “he’ll cope.” I smile at them both. He looks relaxed, but you never know with some blokes, especially on the drink.

“Another admirer, eh?” he smiles at his wife and then throws a big genuine grin at me. “Poor wee bastard.” He laughs, sharing a private joke with his wife.

I acknowledge his joke with a nod, “Have a good night, folks. Happy New Year when it comes.”

The couple return their best wishes and I turn back to the bar to shout the barman over.

Whilst he’s away pouring the drinks, I scan around the pub. It’s packed, so we did well to get the booth during Hogmanay in Edinburgh. It’s a minor miracle we got a seat at all, but we have been in here for most of the afternoon and evening, leaving the table only to relieve our bladders. Hell, we’ve earned some downtime: it’s been a bad year.

There’s a band setting up through in the stage area. All low cavernous ceilings, reminiscent of the Edinburgh vaults, the venue slash pub holds a great little crowd and an atmosphere that belies its size. Down on the Cowgate, Bannerman’s has long been a favourite of ours. Whenever we are in town, which is often, this is our second home. After Holyrood Palace, of course.

The bar owner has known us for years and is one of that rare type who couldn’t care less who a person is, so long as they behave themselves and send their wages over his counter-top. Travelling and working alongside Spike, you tend to put people into types based on their reaction to His Royal Majesty: gawpers, agitators, creeps and indifferent. Jackie was the last of these. The working classes, more in common with the toffs than either group realise, tend to be relaxed around Spike.

An hour later and the bells have come and gone. A slow trickle of drunk and happy people begin to spill out onto the Cowgate. Parents who’ve managed to get babysitters begin to remember that early start the next day and grimace at the thought of their little ones bounding cheerfully into their rooms at first light. Young kids couldn’t care less about hangovers or days off.

Twenty-somethings – the three of us have recently left that particular club-dance – are out looking for their next party or nightclub. Tourists, singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and staggering on the cobbles, trying to remember which direction their hotel was in.

The barman, Jackie Naismith, gives the regulars a nod and yells, “Time, please.

We stay put. Jackie’s a good bloke, he’ll see us right. I watch the big barman slide the upper and lower bolts into place on the heavy doors and light a cigarette. Lock-ins, the sanctuary of the blessed man. Late night drinking behind closed doors at the invitation of the landlord. And you don’t have to step outside into the shredding Edinburgh wind when you want a fag.

Jackie slams a few heavy, old-fashioned ashtrays onto the bar followed by a bottle of Glenmorangie Pride 1978 Spike gave him as a thank-you gift three years ago. Jackie places the thirty-four-year aged single-malt gently onto the counter, yanks at the cork and takes a deep nose-full of the escaping vapours. He pours four singles and replaces the cork, returning the bottle to its locked case behind the bar.

“Here ye go, Cammy,” he says, pushing three tumblers towards me. “Don’t drink it too fast. That deserves to be enjoyed.” He glares at me but the malice he directs towards me is meant affectionately.

“Thanks, Jack.”

He gives me a quick nod then focuses his attention on the shot of whiskey he’s waited all year to enjoy.

As I gather our drinks a wee guy I don’t know nods at me as I walk past. I laugh as I hear him get told to “Get tae fuck, Johnny,” by Jackie.

Never interrupt a man with a rare whiskey in his hand.

Spike notices me coming with the drinks. A silent exchange passes between us confirming Jackie’s generosity with his prized whiskey. Spike takes his glass from me and strolls over to the bar for a chat with Jackie. Flopping into the leather booth, I cut a look at James who’s sprawled over the beer-soaked table, face resting on an arm.

I don’t try too hard to wake him and carefully I make my whiskey a double.

“Thanks, Jim. That’s good of ye,” I tell the back of his head. He grunts something unintelligible.

Sipping at the whiskey I let the off-amber fire soak in my mouth, under my tongue and slosh to the roof of my mouth for a bit, enjoying the intensity of the burn which continues along my gullet and into my stomach after I swallow. Feeling the warmth spread, seemingly to my bones, I close my eyes and enjoy the sensation. The noise of a siren nearby threatens to break the moment, but I find my whiskey-Zen again and submerge myself in the sensations.

I feel a buzz that has nothing to do with the evening, the company or the whiskey and snap my eyes open, searching for Spike. His eyes are already on me, alerted by his own device. Even James is up from his seat looking significantly more alert. A decade of training takes control of us.

Jim secures the doors and windows, Harry takes his cap off and shows our fellow drinkers his face. He uses their shock at seeing his familiar coupon to usher the remaining revellers, along with Jackie, to the rear of the pub, smiling genially and muttering apologies as he shepherds the mostly drunk crowd.

I’m on weapons detail. On sober duty, I’m the only one who’s supposed to be carrying a firearm. I pull my Sig Sauer P230 from the horizontal holster at the base of my spine. Performing an automatic check, I ready the sidearm and check with the lads.

Spike has three knives, his favoured weapons, of various size and type on his person. I know this without asking, but he also pulls out a handgun I didn’t know he had, another Sig P230. That’s fourteen rounds between us.

James, a little slower thanks to the alcohol but mostly alert, pulls out a P226 with fifteen rounds. Neither of them should be carrying. We share a sardonic smile as we assess each other from across the room.

Several other sirens have joined the first I heard in the ten seconds since our personal comm-devices issued the level 1 alert and I can hear sounds of a crowd gathering on the Cowgate. I sweep my eyes around the room one more time and pull my phone from my back pocket. As I move my thumb to speed dial our control centre, it buzzes in my hand. I answer in less than a second and bark my clearance code into the receiver.

“Confirmed,” a woman’s voice says, “please hold for Lt Colonel Melville.”

The line clicks and the calm voice of our CO speaks.

“Situation report please, Captain Shephard.”

“Unit is in lockdown in a level 2 secure building. No immediate threat present. High defensive capability.”

“Affirmative. Hold.”

I listen as Melville leans away from the phone, someone whispering updates in his ear. Spike and James, both calmly standing their zones and smoothing things out with the other occupants of the pub, look to me with questioning eyes.

I break eye contact as Melville coughs and returns to the phone.

“We’re at full-alert, Captain. Escort Captain Wales to…” Another pause for updates. “Escort the captain to Beta Location. Acknowledge.”

“Acknowledged, sir. Timescale?”

Melville, a man with a stoic reputation, unimpressed by pomp or status, sounds genuinely ruffled.

“Immediately, Captain. Expect resistance.”

In Edinburgh?

A trickle of cold sweat tracks its way down my butt crack as the significance hits me.

“Sir. Civilian or military?”

He answers and I wish I hadn’t asked.

“Anyone who gets in your way, Captain. Direct route, no detours. No other directives.”

Melville clicks off, leaving my next words stillborn in my mouth. Despite the insistence on urgency, I take a second to compose myself. From outside a choir of sirens races past up on South Bridge. The crash of twisted metal vibrates down to the Cowgate and rattles the windows. Something explodes, the pub’s frosted windows light up as a fireball warms the night sky. People outside, minutes ago laughing and dancing, are now screaming loudly. Jim and Spike both look to me once again.

“Direct evac,” I tell them. “No distractions. Level one.”

Spike waves me off and returns to calming the punters in the bar.

“Spike, I’ll force you if I have to.”

He raises an eyebrow in amusement. We both know that if he chooses to assert himself, I’ll come off worst. We also both know that he’ll have to hurt me badly to deter me. Neither of us wishes this.

“Not until these people are safe,” he says, pulling at a cellar door behind the bar.

The last level one alert issued to our team was when the plane hit floors 93-99 of the World Trade Centre’s north tower. We were in London at the time and had Spike to his safe location in under five minutes.

None of us know exactly what’s going on outside in the gothic city, but the status of the command leaves us in little doubt that something dreadful is happening to the city. Invading army, bombing, nuclear aggression, bioweapons? We can’t know. We have our orders. Go directly to Beta Location, secure Harry. Do not pass go, do not collect a hundred pounds. Do not stop to help anyone, only engage enemies if progress is barred.

I grind my teeth and crack the pub door a fraction, trying to gain some insight as Spike and James usher the pub’s occupants down into the cellar. Jackie descends the stairs last, face stern.

Spike gives them assurances that they’ll be safe in their hiding place and that he’ll make sure that someone comes for them quickly. Jackie reappears and offers a beefy hand which Spike encloses in two of his.

“I promise, Jack. Now go.”

The big bartender gives him a firm nod and disappears down into the cool cellar with his customers.

Spike wastes another twenty seconds closing the cellar door and shifting a rug over the top of it for camouflage.

James has drained two cups of coffee. He’s alert now, but walking a fine line between sobriety and the shrill over-sensitivity to stimuli that a good dose of black caffeine brings.

Peering through the door I watch people run past Bannerman’s all headed away from The Royal Mile, towards The Grassmarket. Bad news for us; our evacuation route takes us along Niddry Street, straight up onto The Royal Mile and along to Holryrood House where an underground bunker and/or chopper awaits.

I close the door softly and double-check my sidearm.

“You guys ready or do you have something else to take care of?”

Neither answers. Instead they flank me, weapons ready, and we crash through the doors into a nightmare.

 Chapter 2

Cammy threw the double doors open and they spilled out into the street. It was one of those moments, the ones you never saw coming but which changed everything you thought was certain about your world. The sequences and events a team prepared for hundreds of times in training and executed dozens of times – if you were lucky, and you were good – in the field.

Secure, recon, eliminate threats, progress.

They’d done this together so many times they had lost count. Each of them knew his respective role. The big men, so well-coordinated it looked like a lover’s dance, began to move in synchronised perfection.

James had shaken off the last effects of the evening’s alcohol. A glucose tablet and two cups of strong black coffee in under a minute had brought his senses screaming back online. All he had left to fight was the encroaching shrillness of his hyper-alert state – and whatever was happening in the city. Despite the pressure, James felt calm, in control. His training and hard-earned experience taking over, he was a virtual passenger. His best friends by his side meant that he feared nothing. Business as usual, no matter how odd the location.

Through the door, three men, back to back, pirouetted and scanned each section of their zones twice. Smooth, certain, decisive.

That was normally how it went, at any rate. Cutting a look past Harry’s left shoulder, James’ eyes widened as they watched a young man in denims and a Nirvana T-shirt run directly towards them. He couldn’t have been more than twenty-one, just a kid but crazed and covered in blood and gore and sprinting at them, lips peeled back from blooded teeth, naked fury burning in his eyes. No, not fury… hunger.

James moved his weapon up smoothly and issued the kid a warning.

“Halt.”

The kid kept coming. Snarling, he leaped over a shredded body and raised his hands as claws.

James did not hesitate and fired three rounds centre mass into the kid’s heart.

Whipping around he repeated the process, killing four more feral-looking people. The world transformed into a fury of teeth and blood and crazed eyes and death. His team had taken down around a dozen assailants but had expended almost all of their ammo.

“What the fuck has got into these people?” James asked.

“Doesn’t matter,” Cameron replied roughly. “Let’s move.”

James and Cameron flanked Harry who covered their rear as his two guards progressed up the hill towards The Royal Mile. After ten steps Harry swore loudly in that refined voice.

“What in the name of holy fuck?”

James and Cammy swung around, facing the direction they’d come from.

Every one of the people they had dispatched was somehow back up on their feet. Some looked dazed, others fixed on the three friends instantly. All had congealed jelly-like blood clotted where arterial spray should have been pumping out onto the pavement. They bared their teeth once again and ran at the team.

Harry raised his gun first and put a single round into the head of the nearest man, a policeman in torn, bloody uniform sporting two bullet holes delivered to his heart by Cameron moments before. The policeman collapsed like a marionette with its strings severed and didn’t rise a second time.

“Headshots,” Spike said, firing his last two rounds into the heads of a tourist with a rucksack on her back and an elderly lady who was running at him with the speed of an athlete. Both face-planted the cobbles, skidding to a stop a few feet from the group.

Cammy turned uphill once more and brought down two new arrivals who’d been drawn down from The Royal Mile by the gunfire. All three men took advantage of a ten-second break in the onslaught to check their firearms, confirming what they already knew. Three rounds left: two for James and one for Cameron. Spike holstered his empty sidearm and drew two of his blades, big Rambo-esque knives with one sleek edge and a ragged one. One of them sported his house emblem, while the other, a gift from his grandfather, bore his name.

The three men exchanged glances and sprinted the length of Niddry Street, dodging fallen people and shouldering further assailants from their path. Spilling out onto The Royal Mile they cut a quick look uphill and gasped.

The famous thoroughfare’s width and length was filled to overflowing with people. Some crawled over cobbles and over each other, some ran… and all were screaming. Some of those screams were gargled, the thick blood torn loose blocking the path of their dying wails. Some were screams of fledgling hunger from the throats of new-born creatures already deep in the throes of an eternally-agonising appetite for flesh.

Blood flowed in thick, fast rivulets between the cobbles towards the men. The soldiers noted immediately that a close, further along The Mile, was the likely epicentre of whatever the hell was happening. Cameron discharged the last of his ammo into the head of a heavily-built man in a kilt, slipped his knife from concealment and rammed it through the temple of another lunatic trying to force the big officer to the bloody cobbles beneath.

James pulled at Harry’s sleeve to cajole him along in the opposite direction. His friend stiffened, resisting, and pulled his arm free. James watched as the man he was sworn to protect plunged the knife in his right hand through the top of a female tour-guide’s skull. Releasing the big knife, leaving it in her head, he continued his move by fluidly stepping on the back of a dead tourist and launching himself into a wide-arced leap. Adjusting in mid-air, he changed to a two-handed grip on his remaining blade and brought it down heavily into the base of the neck of a woman who’d made it through Cameron’s defences.

James shouted at both men.

“When you’re all done, can we get fuckin’ moving?”

He nodded down the mile towards High Street. Despite the confusion and the terror and the river of blood and madness flooding their way, the men managed a tight grin.

“Keep your knickers, Jimmy,” said Spike.

All three men continued their sprint, feeling the crowd and the enemy thin out as they crested a little hill before High Street swooped down to Holyrood.

They skidded to a halt just after the cobbles end at the entrance to a former church. Looking around at the people running past, James gasped.

“What the hell is going on here?”

Cameron shook his head and blocked a young man about to clatter into James, sending the man sprawling onto the tarmac. The guy regained his feet instantly and sprinted on without ever looking back.

“They seem like they’re infected, near as I can make out,” Cameron said.

Harry laughed, but there was no humour in it.

“They look sick to you, Cameron?” he asked.

Cameron shrugged and opened his mouth to reply when one of the people who seemed to have gone insane came tearing along the street. The three soldiers watched in horror as the assailant pulled down an elderly woman and ripped at her throat, arms and legs with his teeth.

Clinically, James started counting. He reached thirty when the madman tore himself away from the dead woman and snarled, sending blood and flesh spilling onto the concrete. He… it lashed at another passer-by, a middle-aged man this time, and began tearing at his face.

James continued counting. At fifty seconds, the elderly woman jerked up. Moving smoother and significantly more quickly than she had before the attack, she sprang from the ground and fixed her eyes on them.

All three men watched the transformation take her, burning away the frail pensioner. They stood open-mouthed and inert. A first for the unit.

Cammy was the first to recover, but only by milliseconds. The trio, with a new vigour and previously untapped speed, resumed their run towards Holyrood Palace.

End of Excerpt

dEaDINBURGH: Origins is currently on FREE promo at Amazon (until April 25th, 2015).

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