On The SevenTh Day – Preview. Chapter 19

In chapter 19 of On The SevenTh Day, we join Nick (Satan) and Beth (a human), in Hell. They visit two new arrivals named Garry Crawford (a Lanarkshire man) and Chris Pillans (a Premiership footballer). Both have arrived in the afterlife after being disembodied by the spirits of Jesus and Moses respectively.

The following excerpt contains strong language, and religious satire some may find offensive. It is unedited or proofed and comes from On The SevenTh Day, by Mark Wilson. Copyright Mark Wilson and Paddy’s Daddy Publishing, 2015.

On The SevenTh Day

19

Beth never saw him move. He was on her in an instant, wrapping his arms around her. He changed again, this time into the tall being with the blackened wings. Beth screamed as felt her body come apart. Just like that, every cell in her ceased to be matter and was converted to…something else.

Aware that she was, someplace else, Beth stopped screaming. She felt her face, whatever that meant now, pressed against his chest. No heartbeat comforted her. No warmth emanated from him. Nick.

He released her from his arms, holding her at arms-length to look into her face. She had expected to be panicked, shaking uncontrollably, all reason lost. None of these things happened. She did in fact feel a peacefulness she’d never known. All hunger was satisfied, every desire fulfilled. She just was and felt joy for the gift of its simplicity. Looking to Nick she asked,

“Am I dead?”

He shook his head.

“No, your soul has been separated from the flesh of your body. It will be returned when we are done here…if that is what you wish.”

Beth took a step away from him and moved her eyes over the place she found herself in. They stood in a very modern-looking office complex. Pods with neck-high separator panels stood all around, separated by wide corridors and open areas. In each of the large pods various people worked at computers and on telephones. Some played videogames at a fifty inch screen in the centre of the office which seemed to be a communal area. Others milled around the coffee lounge, chatting…laughing. The office had a lively feel, a productive vibe.

Music played in the background and the workers dressed casually. The office and its occupants, looked like one might expect the people and complexes of Google or Facebook to. Meg scanned their faces, her eyes widening and the steel rod her spine had fused into relaxing a little.

Nick smiled at her, humour shining in his eyes.

“What did you expect, Bethany? The Big Fire?”

The words struck her.

The Big Fire. Uncle Harry.

He had called Hell exactly that. Told her she that would go there. Beth fought back a rising panic attack. Taking a deep breath she held it and the threat of unleashed emotion back, refusing it, or either Nick or uncle Harry that power over her. She felt Nick watching her, gauging her response. It made her angry and doused the fear under cold intent.

“You’re a bastard, Nick,” She said flatly.

Nick gave a single curt nod in the affirmative.

“Yes. But not enough of one to take you to the lower levels,” he said.

His eyes darted away from her face to a person who was approaching from behind her. Beth turned to face the being. Dressing in denims, long-sleeve-T and with Cons on her feet, a blonde woman, very pretty, but with concerned features approached carrying an iPad.

She handed the device to Nick, who gave her a warm smile, completely at odds with his Hellish appearance, greeting her.

“What do we have here, Meg?”

An apologetic look creased her face, “Bit of an anomaly, sir,” she said. “To be honest, we’re glad you’re here, we were about to call you anyway.”

Beth stood with her arms folded in a hug around her body wondering what constituted an anomaly serious enough in Hell that its ruler would need summoned. Nick’s eyebrows knitted together as he scanned the information Meg had presented to him.

“They’ve been here since, when?” he asked.

“Four days now, Sir.” Meg replied, subconsciously worrying at a scar on her neck with the nail of her right index finger. Despite her obviously good relationship with Nick, she looked faintly terrified at his prospective reaction.

Beth could relate.

“And they’ve been in that same room, together since, no contact with any other souls?”

“That is correct, sir, although they did spend twenty four hours in as re-education booth.”

Nick raised his eyebrows.

“Ah well, that can’t be helped now. Thanks for bringing this to me, Meg, you did the right thing in calling me.”

Meg relaxed visibly, nodded her thanks and scurried off, disappearing into a throng of workers gathered in the coffee lounge.

Nick tucked the tablet under his arm and returned his attention to Beth.

“C’mon,” he told her, flicking his head towards a door to their right, “I have a little problem to deal with before we can continue the tour.”

∞∞∞

A few paces behind Nick, Beth moved her head from side to side, taking in as much of her surroundings as she could process whilst they walked towards the elevator. The clacking of keyboards, sounds of laughter, chatting and general productiveness comforted Beth, reassured her this was just another busy office.

Following Nick into the elevator, she flicked her eyes towards the control panel. They according to the little electronic panel above the buttons, the elevator currently sat on Level Two. Scanning the buttons, of which there was easily two-hundred, Beth scanned though to Level seventy-five, before Nick broke her concentration.

“Push, Level Seven, please, Bethany,” he said.

Finger hovering over the panel, Beth’s eyes flicked to the button designated Level One, which had a key slot inserted.

“That what I think it is?” she asked Nick.

“Just push seven,” he said, without looking at her.

Beth poked at the button sending the lift he opposite way she’d expected. As the lift descending, Beth gave a sardonic laugh at having expected an elevator in Hell to do anything other than descend.

Nick stood impassive, watching the numbers rise, chewing at the inside of his lip.

After a few moments, the elevator binged, its doors sliding open to reveal a much grimmer-looking level than the one they’d left above. Following Nick out into the corridor, Beth noted the change in colour scheme, dimensions and general atmosphere. Stark white tiles lined the floors and walls, lit by an off-ultra-violet coloured strip of light that lined the walls the length of the corridor. No music played, no workers busied themselves; no one was present at all.

As she followed Nick along the corridor, she could feel his mood darken as they passed a series of doors, labelled with people’s names and a year. The doors did not have handles. Nick came to a stop at a door labelled;

Crawford and Pillans, July 2015.

Reaching for a small panel, Nick paused. Retracting his hand, he turned to face Bethany.

“Beth,” he said quietly, “Please don’t be afraid. I will not allow anything to harm you here in this place, but you may see things you do not…approve of.”

Nick searched her eyes for a moment. Beth did not react.

“If you can, just trust me. Once I’ve dealt with this, we’ll proceed with your tour.”

Beth nodded her agreement.

Nick offered her a half-smile and pressed his hand to the door’s panel. Instantly the door slid open and an angry Scotsman appeared at its threshold.

“Whit in the name ay fuck are you guys offering us now? A hydrochloric acid-enema?”

The guy, dark of hair, over six feet in height, clearly used to getting his way, attempted to push past Nick into the corridor. He may as well have been shoving against a marble statue. Fear filled his eyes momentarily, sending him backing up into the room to join another man inside.

The other guy wore his hair in a top-knot, tall also, with a beard; very handsome and extremely familiar-looking. Top-knot placed a hand on the Scotsman’s shoulder.

“Calm down, mate. This is the gaffer ‘ere. It’ll get sorted now.” He spoke with a cockney accent.

The big Scotsman did not calm down.

“Sorted?” he demanded, eyes filled with disbelief and anger. “You think these cunts can make up for what’s been done tae us here?”

He drilled his eyes into the cockney, daring him to argue. Nick and Beth entered the room, nick standing with his back and one foot up against the wall, clearly entertained by the Scotsman.

“Well, I’ll fuckin’ tell ye this, son,” he continued talking to the cockney, but was pacing and scanning the room with angry eyes as he spoke.

“Waking up in a shitehole, the likes ay which even a Lanarkshire-man wouldn’t enter-fuckin’-tain, tae be set about by two scabby looking basturds in hooded robes, scalpels and dildos in hand, might be your idea of satisfactory accommodation, Mr Premiership, wank-face, but where ah come fae,” He searched for the words to express his outrage.

“…well…it just insae on. Ma hole’s in basturdin’ tatters here.”

His eyes bulged and moved from Nick to Beth and back to the cockney who stepped forward to placate him once again.

“Mate, you’re right, I ain’t arguing wiv ya, I’m just saying, they admitted they made a mistake, innit? The guvnor’s here now. Let’s hear him out, Gaz.”

Shoulders hunched, fists clenched, Gaz clearly wanted to hurt someone, but having already failed to budge Nick, he simply stood inert, snorting through his nose, trying to calm himself.

“Aye, right,” he said, flicking his eyes back to Nick. “But if one mair ay your workers comes near ma erse again…”

Nick laughed loudly, making Beth jump. The laugh was humourless.

He stalked over to Gaz and the cockney, towering above them.

“You’re in my hands now,” he said, his voice a sadistic lover’s caress. “Let’s get to the bottom of this,” He turned to Gaz, “No pun intended, son.”

Gaz shuffled uncomfortably alongside the cockney, still furious, but quiet for a change.

Nick made a gesture and a panel opened in the wall of the unfurnished room. A sofa slid through the open panel, banging into the back of the men’s legs, causing them to fall softly onto the cushions. Both men grimaced a little as they landed but stayed silent, eyes on Nick who stood over them, arms crossed across his chest.

“So you two came here a few days ago, went straight to…” Nick fished the tablet from under his arm. “Level twenty-eight?” he made a whooshing sound through pursed lips.

“You pair must’ve right lively little bastards before you died to deserve Twenty-eight.”

Gaz’s eyes lit up again. “Look, mate, I done a lot ay shite things in ma life, but fuck all tae deserve what’s been done tae me here.”

Nick pressed his face close to Gaz’s.

“That is not for you to judge, Mr Crawford. We do not make mistakes with the placement of a soul. The treatments you’ve received in Hell since you arrived are exactly what is required upon your death if you are to be redeemed, and precisely what you have to look forward to upon your actual death.” Nick growled the words. His black wings ruffled behind him, sending a spasm of fear through the human inhabitants of the room.

“However,” Nick said,” It does seem as though neither of you gentlemen were scheduled to depart the material world just yet.”

The cockney fought his fear to speak up. “You mean we ain’t dead?” he asked.

“No, Mr Pillans, you are in fact not dead, but are in fact the first two souls in history to have entered my domain without dying first or at my invitation.”

Beth shuffled her feet nervously.

“It seems that your souls were displaced, to allow other entities to inhabit them.” Nick said. “It has happened before, the disembodiment of souls, normally by one of the many ancient, malevolent souls, who want to return to the flesh. Humans call them demonic possessions.”

Nick searched the faces of Gaz Crawford and Chris Pillans.

“The disembodied spirit, however does not enter Hell, instead remaining earthbound, until its body is vacated. In your case, entities powerful enough to eradicate your bond to the material universe have shunted you from your bod…”

Nick’s eyes narrowed as something occurred to him. Sweeping around, he spoke with urgency, “Beth, come with me, we’re leaving.”

Gaz was on his feet in a heartbeat.

“C’mon tae fuck, chief. Whit about us? Ye cannae just leave us here, we’ve done fuck-all.”

Nick’s eyes glinted, reflecting the violet light of the corridor.

“I’m afraid you’re here to stay, chaps.”

The door slid closed, Gaz Crawford’s voice roaring through,

“Ya fuckin durty, basturd!”

Nick sighed and reopened the door, moving with the purpose of a living statue, he shoved Gaz back into the room, then pulled the big man into him bringing them nose to nose.

“You have entirely too much to say for yourself, Mr Crawford.”

Caught in Nick’s grip, physically and mentally, Gaz did his best to glare back defiantly. His eyes misted, but he spat out the words, “Get tae fuck.”

Serenely, Nick pressed a single finger gently to Gaz’s lips.

Beth felt something shift in the air as Nick touched the Scotsman. Nothing physical, but something…

Moving around Nick, who had placed one foot against the wall and was leaning back, surveying Gaz’s face, Beth’s eyes widened in shock, then narrowed in curiosity as she took in the change in the man.

Where his mouth had been, a wrinkled, badly torn anus now protruded. Several damaged haemorrhoids dangled, weeping onto his chin. Gaz’s eyes darted from Nick to Beth. All arrogance had left them and been replaced by undiluted fear as his hands moved to where his mouth previously sat.

As his fingers confirmed what his mind already knew, they recoiled in revulsion from the orifice. A muffled voice came from Gaz’s trousers.

“Whit…Whit the fuck, man?”

Gaz’s bluster was all but gone, his voice muffled as much by panic as by the fabric of his underwear and trousers.

Nick spoke into a cell phone. “Meg, my dear, could you send Mr Michael Clarke-Duncan to pay a visit to Mr Crawford on Level Seven?”

Nick smiled warmly at Gaz whose eyes had begun to fill with tears. Holding a finger up in a quiet for now gesture, Nick responded to Meg, “Yes, that’s correct, standard sexual torture for both Pillans and Crawford.”

Nick stole a glance at Gaz’s face. A grin tugged at the corners of Nick’s mouth.

“Tell Mike to start with a blowjob from Crawford.”

Nick disconnected his call. Taking Beth gently by the arm, he left the room, closing the door behind him, the beating of fists and a watery-flatulent chorus came from its inhabitants causing Beth to startle.

Nick did not look back.

Tugging at his arm, Bethany asked him, “Nick, you look worried, what’s happening?” Nick’s face was stoic; lacking all humour.

“Remember I told you that something big was going to happen?” he nodded back at the door to Gaz and Chris’s cell. “Those two clowns are the start of it. I needed to see them in person to be sure, but only God could’ve sent their souls straight to Sheol without death occurring.”

“Why would he want to? Why them?” Beth asked.

“A better question is, who did he send to take their place?” Nick said.

Headed back to the elevator, Nick called over his shoulder, “Come along, Bethany. We’ve work to do.”

End of Excerpt

On The SevenTh Day is due for release by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing early October, 2015.

Mark Wilson is the Amazon-bestselling author of seven fiction novels and one non-fiction memoir. You can find Mark  and his books at Paddy’s Daddy Publishing and at Amazon US and UK.

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Daydreams and Devils by Robert Cowan– Review

With his second offering, Robert Cowan has avoided any treading of water and built on the best of his debut, The Search for Ethan, developing his skillset substantially. With shifting narrative, complex and engaging characters, and an entertaining plot peppered with occasionally acerbic humour, Cowan’s sophomore offering shows none of the signs of that difficult second album. Instead Cowan’s lovely writing simply entertains and immerses the reader into a very real-feeling setting and into the lives of his very relatable characters.

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In Daydreams and Devils, we see a more confident Cowan, gaining his stride and stretching his literary legs, culminating in a novel that significantly betters his first novel, which itself was a very good book. Cowan deserves a larger readership and with offerings such as this book, he’s well on his way to producing an excellent body of work for new readers to discover and binge on.

You can find Robert Cowan and his books at Amazon US and UK.

Daydreams and Devils is available for 99p/99c at Amazon now.

On The Seventh Day – Preview

Having reached the 30K word mark on my new novel, I’ve reached that point where the characters have begun to do their own thing and the story has taken a shift that I hadn’t anticipated. At this point it generally becomes clear how the story is going to pan out and I can begin the process of placing the book in a genre and also the marketing process.

With this particular book, I’m not entirely sure how or who to market it to.

With a religious satire, riddled with (what some will find) vulgar language, the notion that God is a total bastard, the imminent destruction of humans at the hands of said bastard, Satan as the good guy and Jesus and Moses returned to save the humans they love, I’m not going to win many friends.

My long-term dEaDINBURGH readers will not be impressed by this book, I suspect. But in the words of Stewart, our Lord God.

‘Fuck thum. Fuck the lot of thum.’

In structuring the novel, I’ve chosen to alternate chapters between, Nick (Satan’s) telling of his history, and our own evolution, to a barmaid; and Jay and Mo’s adventures on earth. The friends have been placed into the bodies of adult humans, instead of being born on earth this time, and have one week to save our souls before God scrubs the entire universe and begins form scratch. Interludes featuring the head of a global charity foundation, Named Mr Saluzar, will break every other chapter, forming the subplot.

I’ve included two chapters for you.

The following (unedited, un-proofed) excerpt is from Mark Wilson’s upcoming novel, On The Seventh Day and is copyright of Mark Wilson and Paddy’s Daddy Publishing 2015.

On the seventh day promo2

Graphic language and sex, as well as plenty of religious irreverence to follow. You’ve been warned:

4 

Jay and Mo

Blinking hard, Jay tried for the third time to focus his eyes, finding once again that the murky fluid of the world wouldn’t shift. He closed his eyes tightly and rubbed at the lids with the middle knuckle of his index fingers, kneading the soreness behind them. Hair tickled his eyelids. The first sign that he had displaced another soul and taken its body. Jay sighed heavily. Part of him had hoped that his Father may have reconsidered the method by which he and Mo would re-enter the human world. Jay didn’t like to cuss, dad did plenty of that for the whole of Heaven, but several expletives escaped regardless in sympathy for the poor soul he’d disembodied upon arrival in the material universe. Earth to be more specific.

Cricking his neck to the left and right, Jay prepared himself mentally for the imminent discovery of who and where and what he now was. A week, seven days, was not a great deal of time on earth to bring about a change cataclysmic enough to delay God’s decision to obliterate, the universe and begin his grand experiment anew. It was all he had, though. Needs must.

Jay opened his eyes and observed the ceiling of the room he lay in. Think. Observe. Examine. He told himself as the ceiling came into view. The murkiness struck him once again, but part of his subconscious whispered that this was the haze through which human eyes perceived the world. His new body’s eyes were working fine. This was all they saw.

Closing his eyes once more, Jay decided to let his other senses feed him the information he needed for a moment. He remembered from his time in Palestine, two thousand years previously, how very important smells and sound were. Jay regretted the decision immediately as the unmistakable aromas of cold Chinese takeaway, stale farts and crusted spunk-from far too nearby- filled his senses.

Choking back on the suddenly all too familiar sensation of a gag reflex, Jay focused the sounds of the room. Traffic passing, nobody else at home and the gorgeous melodies of The Police wafting through the apartment? House? Thank Dad he has some good music in the house, whoever he is.

Rising from the comfortable bed, Jay found a long, full-length mirror propped against the magnolia wall. He closed his eyes for a moment, bracing himself for the disappointment, he half expected and then took in his new face and body.

He was a tall lad in his thirties, much taller than Jay had been in his ‘God Incarnate’ body in Nazareth. His new face was…okay. Just okay. Nothing remarkable, a bit dull looking if anything, but he had all his hair and teeth which Jay supposed was something at least.

A powerful cramp suddenly surged through his intestines, doubling Jay over. On porcelain in seconds, grimacing and sweating as his bowels emptied in a torrent, Jay eyed the stack of takeaway containers littered on the floor in the next room.

What the hell’s this guy been eating?

Jay’s new body finished purging itself. Standing in front of the bathroom mirror, Jay took off the T-shirt the guy had been sleeping in. His slightly flabby body was covered in thick, wiry hair and hadn’t seen much sunlight from the pastiness of his skin, but really wasn’t in bad condition at all.

Suddenly aware of the smells of someone else, Jay decided that a long hot shower was due. The feel of hot water against his skin, was pure bliss. Nothing as pleasurable as a simple shower existed the on his last visit to earth. His short life in the Middle-East had been one of heat and hunger and sand. One never felt truly clean in those days. In Heaven of course no matter existed, so showers were not required.

Stepping reluctantly from the steam-filled bathroom, Jay dressed himself in a Pink Floyd T-shirt and denims, which were the cleanest-smelling clothes from the pile laying in the bedroom.

The guy’s house is a pig-sty, but at least he has taste, Jay thought, absent-mindedly shuffling through some letters on the dresser. Noting the name on a Scottish Gas bill, he made, a not too bad face. Garry Crawford, that’ll do. Plain, ordinary, nowt flashy. Yeah. It fits the unremarkable face and flabby body nicely.

Scanning down the little window of the envelope Jay’s heart sank as he read Garry’s address.

Motherwell…Bloody Lanarkshire. Dad you are entirely sadistic at times.

Jay sighed and tried out his voice.

“Awright? Big Gaz here, how ye daen, mucker?” Jay closed his eyes and took a moment to compose himself before trying again.

“Hiya. Ahm Gaz. Good tae meet ye.”

Better. Obviously dad has stuck me with the accent, but at least I can smarten the dialogue up a bit.

Jay noticed a bass guitar resting on a black stands and rolled his eyes. Couldn’t even get a real guitarist, he groaned. Returning his eyes to the mirror he spent the next few minutes staring into his new face, wondering how to paint an expression on it that would make millions, billions of people trust him, despite the Lanarkshire accent. Arranging his new features into a state somewhere between kindness and constipation, Jay shrugged.

Best it’s going to get. Time to find, Mo. As he began searching for a phone another cramp racked through his guts, sending him racing back to the little bathroom.

Got to get this guy on the salads.

 

 

∞∞∞

A spasm of pleasure ran along his groin, almost doubling him over. Leaning forward slightly, Mo rested his hand onto the lower back of a woman he’d just orgasmed with. She slid back along the length of his cock, tilting her hips a little to tease some life back into it. She needn’t have worried, it had lost perhaps five percent, changing form rock hard to merely stiff and rubbery.

It’d still do the job.

Mo closed his eyes again, enjoying the sensation of bareback shagging. It’d been so long since he’d been on earth, he’d forgotten the simple ecstasy of flesh and fluids connected and mingled. Turning his partner over-he wanted to look into her eyes- Mo fought back the distraction of her unfamiliar body. She was much thinner than the women of his era. She would almost seem fragile if she wasn’t at that moment forcing him onto his back and positioning herself to ride him. Supposing her appearance was simply fashionable now, Mo shifted his awareness back to where they were connected and to her face, which was simply beautiful, and oddly familiar.

Once again, the rush of orgasm came.

“Fackin’ hell, Chris. You gone and spunked again?” She didn’t sound angry, just surprised.

“That ain’t like you, love,” She said, reaching up to his face, to stroke his beard.

“Yeah,” Mo replied, noting his cockney accent. “Sorry about that, darlin’.”

She smiled, illuminating the room.

“Not to worry, got to get a move on now anyway, Chrissy,” She said. Rising from his weakening cock she placed a gentle kiss on his forehead before slipping off the bed and into the en-suite, the noise of a shower followed soon after.

Mo stretched back onto the bed, reaching his hands behind his head. Enjoying a long, feline-like stretch he smiled to himself. Rising from the mattress, Mo found a mirror and approached. His first look at his new body and face, brought a wide smile to his face as it dawned on him why the woman’s- his wife’s- face was so familiar. Scanning along the tanned, slim and toned torso of his new body, Mo moved his eyes up to the bearded face, and top-knot crowned hair.

In his mid-twenties and handsome; his generations’ most gifted footballer- spoken in the same vein as Maradonna, Ronaldinho and Messi- the broad, bankable smile of Man United’s goal-scoring machine, Chris Pillans smiled back at Mo.

Mo stood grinning at himself in the mirror for a full minute. The moment was broken by the chorus of Uptown Funk, issued from an iPhone on the bedside table.

Retrieving the phone, Mo glanced at the screen.

FaceTime incoming.

 

Clicking connect, Mo rubbed at his beard as the call connected. The blue screen was replaced by the unfamiliar face of an angry looking man in his forties with dark hair and very familiar blue eyes; his best friend’s eyes. They took in Mo’s new face, recognising it immediately. His brow creased.

“You fuckin’ jammy bastard,” Jay said with a thick Lanarkshire accent.

Mo managed to keep a straight face, for a moment. “You sound just like your daddy,” he said.

Obscured by the sound of Mo’s laughter, Jay barked, “Just gies yer address, bawbag.”

5 

Nick

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 will be published in August, 2015 by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing

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

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:

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

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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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dEaDINBURGH Excerpt – Michelle MacLeod

The following excerpt is taken from the upcoming second volume of the dEaDINBURGH: Din Eidyn Corpus and details the insertion of Michelle MacLeod into the dead city.

Michelle is the mother of one of my lead characters from Book 1 and is thirty one years old at the time of the excerpt.

*****MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD******

IF YOU HAVE NOT READ dEaDINBURGH: BOOK 1 DO NOT READ ON

The following excerpt is Pre-Edit and copyright of Mark Wilson and Paddy’s Daddy Publishing Ltd:

Michelle 

Early Spring, 2032 

Part One

 

Michelle woke to find herself laid face-down on a very cool-feeling white tiled floor. The cool-sensation wasn’t entirely unwelcome and helped her focus on something and pull her tangled thoughts together into a semi straight thought process. Her hand went immediately to her abdomen and lay there for a few seconds. Unsure what reassurance she gained from the gesture, she welcomed it regardless of how superficial.

Rolling onto her back, her head swam and her neck ached with the effort. Opening her eyes seemed an insurmountable challenge, a mountain too steep to conquer. An image of her student days, waking on Darcie’s floor after a hard night’s drinking and dancing came to mind, but left as quickly as it came. Not many nuggets of information were presenting themselves to her ever more alert mind regarding her current whereabouts or situation, but she knew for certain that alcohol hadn’t been a factor, having eliminated it from her life some fourteen weeks before.

She blinked hard six or seven times and finally managed to get her eyes in focus. Nothing she looked at made any kind of sense. Michelle sat up groggily and rubbed at her gluey eyes. She felt her pupils contract in response to the clinically harsh, xenon glare of the lights blasting the unfamiliar too-white room and laughed at the absurdity of the dream she was surely having.

Looking down at her own body, she found herself clothed in rags. Filthy sack-like canvas shirt covered her upper body loosely. Men’s trousers three sizes too big and rancid, really truly rancid, draped her lower half. She fought down a familiar nausea as the waft from them hit her senses. She wore no underwear and subconsciously pulled her arms around herself.

As the brightness became normal, she became aware that she wasn’t alone. Far from it. Moving her eyes was painful, so she rotated her pounding head on aching vertebrae and scanned the room. Perhaps ninety people lay in various states of consciousness. Men, boys, women and girls, lay around her on the pristine, sterile floor of the very white room.

All were clothed as she was. Some looked at her, like a child looks at a parent for answers, for reassurance, simply because she was the most alert-looking in the room. Many were too busy looking down at themselves or around the room, wondering what they wore and where they were. Michelle’s eyes teared-up as they flitted from one face to another. Some were scared white. Others shook their heads certain, as she herself was, that they’d awake somewhere warm and familiar at any moment. Most were starting to panic as they became fully awake. None of them looked to be anything other than very ordinary, very scared people.

One man started laughing loudly, causing Michelle to jump at the suddenness and intensity of his Sid James-esque bray. In other circumstances she’d have laughed along with the man and described his laugh as the dirtiest she’d ever heard. Today, in this place the man’s laugh was the sound of his sanity rustling as it left him and breaking against the white walls. Today the laugh was truly terrifying and corrupting to the tenuous grip on sanity held by the room’s inhabitants.

Michelle shut the noise out and focused on a group of seven people who still lay prone near the only door visible to her. A few others had started to move towards them also, drawn by their relative stillness. As Michelle drew nearer the group of people- a mixture of adults and children, male and female- she noticed that each of the group weren’t as still as they’d seemed from the other side of the room.

They were twitching and jerking, only slightly, like someone in the depths of a nightmare. Michelle felt a laugh of her own escape. Irony always had made her laugh.

Pushing her way gently past the little group of stunned people gathered around the apparently asleep people on the floor, she mentally swatted away the mist of a thought that was beginning to surface and placed a hand on the nearest boy’s forehead. The boy was burning up with fever. A quick glance at the other sweat-soaked faces in the group confirmed that they all were fevering. And then she saw the wounds.

Michelle’s eyes widened with horror as her subconscious pushed harder and filled her mind’s-eye with thousands of images of people she’d seen in the same condition. People in the latter stages of infection. People who’d been bitten. Infected.

Without guile or embarrassment she pulled the filthy clothes from her body and searched every visible inch of herself for bite marks. She pulled a man who stood next to her close and asked him to look in all the places she couldn’t see. Without asking, she pulled his shirt and trousers from him. Too stunned to protest, he allowed her to check for bites. Word spread, quickly. Within minutes everyone in the room was naked and checking each other for any signs of broken skin.

Eventually each of the room’s occupants, silently dressed once more, relief smashed aside with returning panic. Why? Why were they here? Three things happened in the next five seconds to make their question the last thing they needed to worry about.

 

Michelle

 Early Spring, 2032

 Part Two

 A loud clang rang out and bounced around the tiles of the room. Many of the people jumped in fright. Some of them disappeared, dropping through the large trapdoor that had fallen six feet from the pristine white floor to a barely-lit tunnel below, forming a slippery white tiled ramp into the darkness.

Many of the people in the room stood and gaped into the darkness, but only for a single second. Only until the loud scream of a child at the rear of the group snapped everyone’s attention around to the fevering group of almost dead at the main doors. Almost dead, now fully risen and attacking people closest to them with a bottomless, vicious hunger that tore flesh from bone and limb from socket. All of those present had seen the show. It didn’t need said, but one man, the still-laughing man, felt the need to shout out the obvious.

“We’re in dEaDINBURGH”.

He was positively gleeful. Until a newly animated Ringed tore his throat out with its clawed hands and devoured the flesh.

Like a wave of pestilence The Ringed moved throughout the room, tearing, biting and clawing with the strength and speed of the newly risen, at the room’s panicked occupants.

Michelle MacLeod saw none of this. As soon as the trap door had slammed into the darkness, she’d become a blur of movement. No thought, just deed. Launching herself along the tunnel, Michelle shouldered each of the people in her path aside. Leaving them in a wake of bewilderment, she cut through the darkness, one hand grabbing the loose waist of the men’s trousers she wore into a fist, the other reached out in front of her, searching through the darkness.

Her fingers cracked against a wooden panel, causing a jolt of nerve pain to lightning up her arm and the panel to dislodge. A crack of very strong sunlight lasered through the gap she’d made. She saw the dust and dirt she’d swept along with her swirl around in the biblical shaft of light that cut through the tunnel’s blackness and took a second to shout back to the other people, if people they still were.

“This way. There’s a way out.”

Shouldering through the panel of MDF, Michelle clattered onto the earth outside and shut her eyes against the brightness of the day. Beneath her eyelids, her eyes still hurt, such was the intensity of the Edinburgh, sunshine and the contrasting darkness of the tunnel. Placing a hand over her closed eyes she gave her pupils the dangerous few seconds they needed to contract and tentatively peered beneath her eyelids.

The world was a cacophony of colours in the air and the flora and fauna. She looked down a landscaped apart of the countryside. Trees and bushes, grasses and shrubs, all filled with bright berries, flowers and fruit shone alongside a straight, concrete path cutting through the beauty of the landscape. The fauna, perhaps a hundred yards along the path, hadn’t noticed her yet, but with the screaming coming along the tunnel behind her, their desiccated faces and mouldering teeth would turn her way soon.

Michelle blinked stupidly into the sun and let out a quiet sneeze. She’d always been a sun-sneezer. Her friends had mocked her playfully for it, but she’d always liked the trait she shared with her mother. Her eyes darted to a meadow to her right and picked out the unmoving body of a dead, truly dead, Ringed. She moved with speed towards the partially-rotted pile of bones and decayed flesh that not even the maggots feasted on.

Picking up the fleshiest part she could see- badly putrefied quadriceps- Michelle covered her exposed flesh and already rancid clothing in the black, jelly like fluids of the decaying Ringed. She coated her face, and carefully applied congealed fluid that had once been blood as though it were her favourite make-up. Taking her time, she flicked away the little clots that threatened to make her vomit despite the state of cold calculation her mind had entered, and smoothed fold blackened paste-like flesh over her own skin. When Michelle had finished her task she looked as though she’d fallen into a container of rotted offal.

Taking a belt from the trousers of The Ringed she’d coated herself in, Michell tied it around her waist, gathering the folds of fabric together, hurting her waist with the tightness of the leather. She shut herself off to the loud moans of dusty hunger and the wet tear of torn cracked teeth on flesh coming from the cycle path at the tunnel’s exit. Nothing to do. Nothing I can do. Just move. Years of images flooded her mind once more. Information on operation she’d been privy to as a board-member of the UKBC flooded her mind along with detailed layouts, blueprints and maps of the dead city.

Subconsciously she placed her hand over her slightly protruding uterus, absorbed strength and purpose from it, decided on a destination, and used the other gift her mother had given her. A lifelong stamina athlete, Michelle MacLeod ran like she’d never run in her whole life.

dEaDINBURGH: Din Eidyn Corpus 2 is due for release by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing in late January, 2015.

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dEaDINBURGH: Din Eidyn Corpus 3 is due for release by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing in late February, 2015.

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You can find Mark Wilson and his books at Amazon, US and Amazon, UK.

Preview of dEaDINBURGH (Din Eidyn Corpus Book 2)

 

The following excerpt is taken from the upcoming second volume of the Din Eidyn Corpus.

*****MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD******

IFYOU HAVE NOT READ dEaDINBURGH: BOOK 1 DO NOT READ ON.

 

 

Din Eidyn Corpus Book 2 Will follow Alys and Joey directly after the events of book one, but will also show awider look at the outside world, beyond the dead city’s fences. As well as continuing Fraser Donnelly’s story, we’ll also see Michelle MacLeod (Joey’s mother) before she entered the dead city and discover how she came to be in amongst the dead.

Most of the information about the outside world will be relayed through a new character’s story arc. This is what follows:

 

dEaDINBURGH: Book 2 excerpt:

 

Edinburgh, Scotland

 2051


 

Voiding the light breaking through the gap in his curtains, Jack squinted at his Holo-Screen, blinking the fog from his eyes. Seven a.m.

He’d been playing the dEaDINBURGH: Lair of The Ringed video game since midnight. Since the feed had been cut from the live show. He flicked his finger across the air in front of him, causing the UKBC screen to pop up. The countdown until the feed re-connected sat at 00:15. Just fifteen more minutes until they had the show back onscreen in full High-Def Holo-Image. Jack saved his progress and kicked at the desk in front of him, sending his ergonomic chair scooting backwards through the pile of empty energy drink cans and takeaway boxes littered across the carpet of his living room.

Scratching at his crotch with his right hand, he lifted his left arm and sniffed at his arm-pit, screwing his face up at the sourness. Should have time for a shower if I get a move on. Jack stood with a groan in protest at the crack of his knees. It’d been a while since he’d had quite so long a session on the game. Scooping a handful of Cheesey-Puffs off of the desk and into his mouth he headed to the apartment’s little shower cube.

 

As he sang from the shower, the dEaDINBURGH theme began blasting from the surround sound speakers, eliciting a whoop of delight from him as he barrelled from the bathroom, not bothering to dry himself, body wobbling back into his still-warm chair.

Leaning forward he made a little gesture, enlarging the screen and scanned the info-bar along the bottom of the page to catch any updates. There were too many to read so Jack flicked at finger at the Holo-Screen, bringing up a highlights reel on a smaller screen within the main one. Whilst the main screen flickered into life, he flicked his eyes from the main image to the highlights feed, gleaning everything he could about what had happened to his favourite Survivors during the feed-loss.

Suzy-Wheels, Danny McGhee and Jennifer Shephard, his main characters, all were more or less where they’d been when the feed had cut twelve hours earlier. Jack flicked at the screen a few more times, bringing up images of one of the less popular and least-covered Survivors he’d been following.

Joey MacLeod’s face filled the frame. Jack liked this kid. He’d begun to get a little more airtime recently, mostly because he’d been in a few scraps with The Ringed of late. Jack remembered him from the episodes where he’d left The Brotherhood a few years back, with the old Padre.

Padre Jock had been a favourite of Jack’s as a kid. As a Zom-Hunter and one of the most colourful characters on the show, he’d had a huge chunk of airtime over the years and had consistently been in the top-ten Survivors chart for over twenty years. When he’d been killed by Bracha, Jack had shed a few tears for the old man who seemed as intricately tied to the show as its theme tune to a generation who’d grown up watching him. Three years later, Jack still felt grief whenever he looked at one of the many images of Jock on mugs, posters, T-shirts and other merchandise around his home. Jack had a massive poster of Jock over his bed, a scene from the show, showing a young Jock, blades flashing, Silencing five Zombies. It bore the legend: Running rings around The Ringed. One of Jack’s online friends had a tattoo in the shape of the characteristic Ring o’ Roses rash of The Ringed.

Many of Jock’s fans had now latched onto the eighteen year old the old preacher had trained out of the need for a connection to the familiarity of the Padre. Aside from that, they’d grown to know and love Joey during his time with Padre Jock.

The screen showed Joey and Alys, both shot from behind, in a large open field. Joey had his bow over his back and was following along behind Jennifer’s daughter. They looked tired and were both covered in a grey dust. Jack watched as the cameras zoomed out, revealing a mass of Zoms spilling out into the field from a cycle path and a little clearing in a woodland. From the trail in the long grass, it was obvious that the teens had come from the Zom-infested area.

It was a beautiful shot, so much so that it moved Jack to click the little thumbs-up icon at the corner of the screen. He was only the hundredth to do so. It made him feel a part of something special, that he was amongst the first to see the beauty in the photography.

Wondering how the teens had survived the massive congregation of Zoms and why the infected weren’t pursuing them, he whirled the highlights footage over to the main screen and began searching through it, hoping that he hadn’t missed something special. He looked at the view counter at the edge of the highlights screen.

One View. A single viewer besides him.

Jack felt a thrill surge through him and clicked the thumbs-up icon, making himself the second person to have done so. As the images moved he watched amazed as Joey and Alys moved like crowd-surfers along a mass of the dead. They seemed completely calm, so at ease. Jack he’d never seen anything like it. Nobody had.

As the scene progressed, it was suddenly cut with footage from earlier in the day. They had battled hundreds of the dead in that same clearing, Joey in a tree firing arrows and Alys a demon with her twin Sai. It was astounding and contrasted so sharply with the serenity of the previous footage that Jack felt a prickle all over his skin.

He watched Joey and Alys’ Survivor ratings rocket from the around 10,000 straight to position two and one, respectively. Realisation suddenly made him jerk in his seat. He motioned at the screen and watched as his viewer rating appeared. Last night he’d been in the upper ten-million region. A respectable position for someone in Kent. The total viewing figures worldwide for dEaDINBURGH were at around four billion.

Due to his early support for Joey, and lifelong support of Jock, he’d voted and thumbed-up Jock hundreds of times, maybe thousands in his lifetime, Jack’s Viewer Rating would receive a boost. Factor in his support of Alys by proxy of being a Jennifer Shephard supporter and combined with this morning’s early acknowledgement of both the live-feed and the highlights package, and Jack’s viewer rating should be at an all-time high, perhaps top one million.

Jack blinked in disbelief as he looked at the numbers. His rating had been propelled to top 500, worldwide. Number 1 in Europe.

His Holo-Screen suddenly lit up with emails, messages and invitations regarding  interviews, expert analysis, insights. He was being lined up for a series of appearances across some of the biggest shows on the network and a clutch of major blogs and newsfeeds.

Messages of congratulations from his network-family scrolled across his screen. In one minute he’d gone from being another nobody, an above-average fan who spent a little too much time watching the most-watched Holo-programme on the planet, one of those guys who haunted the thousands of fan-sites and pages looking for insights and extra-footage, to the hottest viewer-consultant in Europe.

He’d always known that he was someone special. Always felt that he was destined for something better than his current station in life. Something that made him worthy of the name he carried. This was it. Finally.

Jack Thatcher glanced down quickly at his mostly-naked, wet body, edges of the towel barely meeting around and under his belly. He gave a curt, decisive nod, to himself. Time to get sorted. The first thing I’ll do is get that liposuction and a skin removal. And my teeth. Get my teeth fixed.

With the kudos and the money that’d be coming his way, it was time to get himself together.

Rising from his seat, he stopped for a second, lifted his right thigh a little and expelled a cloud of gas before heading to his wardrobe. Drying off, he sniffed at then  pulled on a pair of reasonably clean sweatpants, figuring that he’d aim the Holo-Camera from the waist up. Best to be comfortable.

Jack then pulled on an old dEaDINBURGH T-shirt his dad had given him on his thirtieth birthday, with an image of Jock in full Plague-Doctor outfit on the front. It felt a little tight, but familiar.

Striding back through to take his seat, he flicked open the Comm for his first interview with an American news network, allowing himself to enjoy a moment of satisfaction at finding his rightful place.

He smiled warmly and connected his call.

 

END OF EXCERPT

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dEaDINBURGH (Din Eidyn Corpus) Book: 1 (and Mark’s Lanarkshire Strays collection) are available now as a paperback and on kindle at Amazon, US and Amazon, UK.

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