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Tuesday Serial Time: "Satellite Four"

The final part of the “Satellite” serial, posted slightly later than normal in the day. Sorry about that, but I went to an all-night NaNoWriMo writing session on Saturday, it was a lot of fun, but my sleep patterns took a bit of a beating. Finally slept for 11 hours last night, which will hopefully get me back on track.

Anyway, you don’t care about this “Dear diary” stuff. This is the fourth part of a serial, so you may want to read Satellite One, Satellite Two and Satellite Three if you want to understand what in hell’s going on. Let’s see if I can wrap this up in a vaguely satisfactory way.

Satellite Four

By Nick Bryan

‘Will you two shut up?’

Jack Elson crashed his tea tray against the wall, because it had been the nearest thing to hand, then waited to see if he needed to do it again. Thankfully, the two shrieking morons next door got the message quickly for once.

So that left the giggling couple upstairs and that girl opposite them who spent half the night pacing. By Jack’s estimation, he had an hour or so before she returned and started her little circles, so decided to go to bed. If he was lucky, he might fall asleep before she got going.

He took a few quick jabs at his ceiling with the handle of the broom, on the offchance it would make the giggling subside. No effect, but at least the druggie kids had stopped seeing their own footprints and thinking it was a yeti, or whatever the hell. With a sigh of exhausted relief, Jack hauled himself out of his chair with his lower arms.

Yes, it was frustrating being old; achy joints, feeling the cold, not being able to walk at a decent speed despite his impatience, but at least his arms were in decent shape, due to all the crashing items against walls. A minute later, one of the lads next door flopped into their sofa a little too heavily, so he banged idly on the adjoining wall with his kettle.

That done, Jack lay back on his bed, and hoped once he’d been still for a while, the aching would subside and he’d drift off. Or it would be replaced by stiffness, and he’d need to change position and start the process again. One of the two.

At last, after three cycles, Jack nodded gently away. It was strangely peaceful, too. He had become so aware of any noise that he’d often be stirred by any stupid thing, but this time he rested.

Until much later, when something squelched. Not banged, thudded or crashed, but fell into audible gushing pieces, accompanied by a vague shout and then, at last, a gentle impact.

Jack lay on his bed for a while, listening for any further noise and holding a tennis ball ready to bounce off the ceiling. Finally, he started to see a tiny red spot, growing into a stain. Now, Jack had lived in this building for a while, he knew the construction was a disgrace. It was best not to ask about the horrendous upstairs toilet overflow of ’89.

But this was definitely the wrong shade for that, although it had begun to go a little brown in patches. With a growl, he threw the ball away and reached for something more serious: the shovel.

He exited his flat and quietly took to the stairs in darkness, not letting the spade touch anything. Instead, he heard more undesirable noises, not a crunching but a spattering this time, the smell of something rotten and internal spreading through the hallway.

Maybe it was a bit like that day in 1989 after all, Jack thought, tightening his grip. Finally, he rose onto the hallway, both flat doors were wide open. That, by itself, was odd, because they hated each other, you could smell it in the air. He’d seen and heard them brushing past each other in the corridor, barely exchanging so much as a “How are you?”.

Jack stood in the gap between the two doors, barely knowing where to look. On the one side, the couple from upstairs had been smashed in and ripped apart; on the other, the pacing girl was doubled over and vomiting, as a man in a white overall stalked into her flat. He started to wish he’d bothered to find out any of their names.

Truth be told, much as he liked to thwack his walls, much as he’d brought a damn shovel with him, Jack had never really been in a fight. He stared blankly as the man in white turned on rubber-padded feet to face him. He thought he recognised the messy hair of that idiot kid from opposite him sticking out around the tight hood, but wasn’t entirely surprised. Everyone knew drugs turned you into a lunatic, after all.

As the figure moved for him, Jack’s shovel hand twitched. Fingers open to drop the metal weight, he turned and ran with a speed he didn’t realise he had, pounding down the stairs to get back to the safety of his flat, because where else would he go?

Unfortunately, he still wasn’t that fast, in reality. He’d made it around halfway down, huge vertical window behind the entire thing, when the man, carrying his shovel, caught up with him. There was a dirty, textured smear of red over the sharp end which hadn’t been there when he’d dropped it, and Jack waited for it to dig into him too.

Until, suddenly, a burning ball of light started falling from the sky, slowly but very steadily. Jack saw it from the corner of his eye and was transfixed, and his attacker was the same. And, suddenly, he released Jack from his grip, shoving him heavily down the rest of stairs.

Something in his hip snapped as the old man hit the hall floor, followed by a heavy bang on his head, and he could hardly even lift his field of vision from the horizontal when a white, gooey overall landed on his body with a splat, its gore soaking into his shirt.

Followed, a moment later, by the shovel clanging down beside him. Jack couldn’t even move his arms, but he could see the guy, now totally clean, go back into his downstairs flat, padding in and shutting the door softly, much more politely than they usually bloody well bothered with.

A second later, to coincide with the sound of him flopping back onto the sofa, there was a bang, followed by a roar, as the fireball outside hit the floor. Still, Jack lay there immobilised. He never realised quite what was happening until half an hour later, when the messy kid’s not-quite-as-stupid flatmate dashed out and saw him, the old, lonely wall-punching neighbour, on the ground at the bottom of the stairs next to a bloody overall and shovel.

Upstairs were three bodies, one clearly killed by a couple of swift shovel wounds to the torso. As luck would have it, Jack never managed to speak again, but “Old Man Elson” became notorious in the tabloids, after years orbiting around the fringe of the world, quietly ignored. Half a dozen similar incidents in buildings throughout the area, so many that a superstitious scientist picked the fallen satellite apart, searching for an explanation. Unless that too was a diversion for something else.

So, that was that. I’m not sure if it worked or not, to be honest. I think it’s a lot better than the last time I did a serial on here. Anyway, feedback welcome, copyright me, please don’t steal, email me if you like, bye bye.


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