I did a similarly themed blog here back in March but this one has more experience and a blog-friendly list format. So if my recent WriteBlog pieces have been too conversational for you, here’s some structure.
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.
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.
It’s time for more serial, because November is nearly over and I’m horrifically behind on my NaNoWriMo targets. Never mind. At least I managed to write this in time, just about.
By Nick Bryan
A few seconds after Angie giggled a little too loudly, Joe joined in. And, seconds later, there was a loud crash as Wendy across the hall slammed a door. And then they looked at each other and, yes, giggled laughed longer.
Not that they’d been doing anything rude, well, not much, but from the tone of that crash, clearly she thought they had. To be honest, they both thought, may as well have sex loudly anyway.
Angie and Joe didn’t exactly mean to annoy people, swear to god, but seemed to manage it anyway. When they weren’t at work, they spent huge amounts of time in their flat or staggering to the pub, not really meeting anyone in particular. How, they argued, could that possibly be irritating?
(“Well,” said their friends, family and neighbours, “it could be because you treat us as if we’re some niggling back-of-your-head noise.”)
So there they were, in their own little world, Joe’s trousers about to come off, when there was a knock at the door. They both looked up sharply, first towards the noise, then at each other. This never happened. Angie and Joe didn’t have guests, and neighbours normally communicated their displeasure by pounding on walls.
A proper knock on the physical door? This was new.
Unsure exactly what one does in this situation, Joe approached nervously, zipping his flies up as he went. Angie, meanwhile, hid around the corner and watched. Not because she was in any state of undress, just out of sheer fear.
Finally, he swung it open. There, standing, eyes half shut and hair a clammy mess, was Alf from downstairs, one of the stoner flatmates who could occasionally be heard yelling at any small movement. He was always scruffy, from beard to clothes, but this time it didn’t look like an intentional style choice. He seemed to have been ripped into by something.
‘Alf, what’s up mate, you, um, okay?’
Joe looked him up and down, partly to check for visible blood and also to avert his eyes, which were staring firmly. Alf seemed to have gained a lizard-like immunity to blinking.
He still hadn’t said anything, either. Joe glanced back up again, making eye contact for a split second. ‘Look, if you’re having a bad trip or something, just, y’know, go sleep it off.’
Behind him, he was conscious of Angie spinning around to look out of the window. ‘There’s a thing.’
‘What?’ He turned, relieved of the chance to face away from Alf. ‘What kinda thing?’
‘Something fell out of the sky like a shooting star or something, I think it landed…’
She made it most of the way towards the huge window in their living room, before looking back on hearing Joe’s shocked growl. Alf, with freakish strength, had grabbed him by the back of the neck and now appeared to be lifting him off the floor.
The eyes still weren’t blinking, closing or deviating from straight ahead. Suddenly, with a backheeled kick, Alf kicked the door shut behind him and shoved Joe towards Angie. But, rather than attempt further violence, he first turned and picked up the white overalls that Joe had left in the hallway from work, among a pile of other tat.
This, Joe thought, seemed weirdly coherent for someone in a trance. He was experiencing a psychotic episode, but still wanted to keep his clothes clean?
Which, moments later, stirred Joe’s stomach towards nausea when he realised what mess Alf would be protecting his jumper from. With no real plan in mind, Joe raced at Alf, trying to knock him off-balance whilst he was still putting on the damn overall.
But Alf didn’t seem to notice the shoulder barge. With an offhand shove, he pushed Joe to the ground, knocking his head on the way down and drawing blood. As the red stuff hit the air, Angie finally started to scream from behind them.
So, of course, Alf was on her before she really had the chance. Then he threw her very hard into the wall of a cupboard. And then, zipping up the suit for good measure, rubber grips covering his hands, he more or less reached inside her with a couple of grasps at her midriff. Joe was so shocked, he didn’t even make a sound.
Not until it was too late, anyway. By the time he’d thought to shout, Angie had started to spill out over the carpet and Alf had turned on him, with a harder kick to the skull. Things started to go a little hazy. The hard, white soles of the overalls were pressing down on his head, squeezing him unconscious.
Through that window, wherever the shooting star had landed, he thought he could see a glow. Whatever it was, it was getting brighter or the rest of the world was dimming.
Finally, at last, his skull split open and willpower exploded outwards.
Well, that was lovely. God knows what I’ll think of next week. Do I have to beat myself in unpleasantness every time? Anyway, yes, copyright me, do not steal, email me to discuss, ta very much, read Satellite Four to see how it ends.
Time for the second part of the serial, cleverly entitled “Satellite Two”. You might be able to take an intuitive stab at what the other two will be called. And yes, this too has been written as part of my NaNo word count.
For those just joining us, you may want to read Satellite One before continuing…
By Nick Bryan
With a guttural grunt, Wendy staggered up the stairs and tried to lift her hands through the heavy shopping. Plastic bag handles had lashed them both below her waist, and now she couldn’t get to the key to open her own front door. Why couldn’t they fix the lights out here? It was cold, dark and unsettling; she didn’t feel safe in her own home despite living on the first floor.
Nonetheless, unless she put the stuff down, she would never get her keys out from behind the dangling frozen fish. She made one last attempt to slip a hand through, only for it to become tangled up, then crushed behind an icy mass of peas.
With an unfeminine swearword, Wendy staggered sideways, still barely able to see, and shoulder barged a wall. Finally, blackness defeating her, she let the Tesco bags thump to the floor and sifted through her pockets.
The keys eventually came free, her heart pounding. She squeezed the bridge of her nose with two fingers and told herself everything would be fine soon enough. Soon she’d be on the other side of that door enjoying a delightful evening of stew, whilst ignoring calls from insurance call centres.
There were four flats in that entire building, two on each floor, and the one opposite contained a couple. Wendy could hear them giggling as she reached for the keyhole, and shook her head sadly. She could afford this flat on her own, she told herself, so was higher on the economic scale than they were. Either that or they were richer as well, just taking a cheaper place to be sensible and save. That would be typical.
At long last, she slipped the keys into the door, desperate to feel the gears crunch open so she could flop into her armchair and take a well-earned deep sigh. And maybe after that, she’d consider unpacking the bloody shopping.
The proper deadlock came first, before she could turn the latch. Except it didn’t, because when she tried, it didn’t move. After a couple of grunts, she nervously twisted in the opposite direction. Maybe it was broken, she thought, until she felt a huge bolt crunch into place and lock her door.
To be honest, she’d rather it had been locksmith time. Wendy was usually meticulous about these things, so had someone been inside her flat? And somehow been able to open the lock? And then been too stupid to lock it on their way out?
Which meant either she had left the door unlocked by accident, or someone was still inside. She really hoped it wasn’t the stoners downstairs pissing around; she refused to feel terror over those two.
The latch opened normally; Wendy pushed the door open just wide enough to fit through and stepped inside. The flat was in darkness, the few things she could see appeared undisturbed. She heard a crash, but it was only the door falling shut behind her.
Shopping all but forgotten, she reached the living room, dominated by a huge window facing the suburbs. She was upstairs, and all the buildings nearby were the same height or smaller. The moonlight illuminated the room, showing up no-one in the flat, and this was swiftly getting eerie. Finally, she hit the lights.
She glanced into the kitchen, in case someone was rooting through her cupboards, then checked the bathroom as well, because there are some perverts out there, then swore and ran back into the corridor to get her shopping.
As she put the stuff away, she flicked the television on, in the hope that background chatter from the news channel might put her at ease. Yes, this was a step closer to becoming a lonely old woman, but these things are classics for a reason.
She slid a row of baked bean cans into a cupboard, as the man in the suit rambled. ‘… and reports of odd behaviour across the south west today, as it looks increasingly certain that an old Russian satellite will crash in the area.’
‘Most falling space debris burns up rather than striking the earth or lands at sea, but apparently NASA are almost certain that the remains will fall in the south west London region, probably within the next hour.’
Wendy put her corn flakes back down in the kitchen and edged slowly towards the voice. The TV, the moon and her cheap light bulb were now competing to provide a glow.
‘Experts say the odds of serious damage are small unless it lands directly on someone, but nonetheless, there have been selected outbreaks…’
Suddenly, as Wendy stared in bare feet, there was a broken scream from across the corridor. Loud, high-pitched, female, and hadn’t those two been giggling twenty minutes ago?
‘…of violence and mania across the region…’
And then her door swung open. Had she left it on latch after bringing in the shopping?
‘… but police suggest, as a precaution…’
Finally, a figure wearing some kind of overall staggered into her room, trailing red and brown goo that smelt like death. Her eyes followed the mess back to the open door of the couple’s flat across the way. It occurred to her that she’d never bothered to find out their names. On that thought, Wendy turned around and vomited on her carpet.
‘… local residents lock their doors and stay inside.’
Copyright Nick Bryan 2011, please don’t steal, or at least email me before you do. And yes, it looks like I’m lurching from stoner comedy towards horror here. Or am I? Well, click through to Satellite Three to find out…
So, last Friday I warned you that I might be trying something a bit different with the website stories. Since I’m reliably producing a steady stream of fiction in November for NaNoWriMo, I have decided to move from the Friday Flash collective to the Tuesday Serial one.
And so, below is the first part of a four part story I’ll be posting through the month of November. Next part is next Tuesday. Enjoy.
By Nick Bryan
‘Dude, what time’s it meant to be coming past? Dude?’
No response. Alf waited five minutes, glaring at the corner that turned into their open plan kitchen, then shouted: ‘DUDE!!!’
‘Yeah, alright, one second.’ Ian didn’t sound impatient, merely preoccupied. ‘I’m just having a look at this thing.’
‘What thing?’ But he’d gone quiet again. ‘What thing?’
This time, screaming was not getting the job done. Swearing and gesturing about his flatmate’s selfishness, Alf hauled himself from the sofa with both hands.
He made it across the brown smoky haze of their living room in a couple of lumbering staggers. Considering the colour and the smell, you’d think the place would be a disgusting mess, but Alf and Ian were very pragmatic. When you spent so much time stoned, you didn’t want obstacles. You’d fuck your legs up constantly.
So it was an easy journey to the kitchen, which was full of fumes that were not steam. Ian was staring into a pan, sucking intermittently at his joint. Alf, happily assuming that was the source of the smoke, wandered over and followed his gaze.
And then, as he often did, panicked a little. ‘DUDE HOLY FUCKING SHIT.’
Inside the metallic saucepan, a bunch of carrots and broccoli had boiled dry, now cracking, crunching, blackening and becoming one with the base of the pan.
As Alf screamed and swatted at the dials, Ian sighed, picked up the nearby fire extinguisher and blasted the general area with foam. Since the thing had merely been placed on top of the hob, the sudden pressure sent it flying, clattering across the room, echoing down both their ear drums and making Alf yell all the louder.
Finally, it came to a stop, cracked vegetables flaking all over their floor and foam clogging up the works of their cooker. Miraculously, Alf’s manic flailing had switched off the gas, so they just stared. Their reverie was only interrupted by a pounding, crashing noise from through the wall, and a muffled yell of ‘Will you two shut up?’.
Finally, Ian said: ‘Well, I hope you’re happy. Old man Elson sounds fucking furious.’
‘Sorry, dude. Those were like zombie vegetables in there, though.’
‘Absolutely. Undead carrots. Smoke this and shut up, eh?’
His troubles suddenly forgotten, Alf nodded and bounced off to the living room, Ian trailing behind him.
‘So,’ flopping back on the sofa, Alf continued as if the zombie vegetable encounter had never happened, ‘what time is this thing coming past us?’
‘The satellite? Well,’ Ian picked up his laptop from the sofa and peered, trying not to drop ash into the keyboard, ‘I reckon it falls past in about half an hour, actually.’
‘Cooool. Out this side?’ And he pointed at the large window opposite the sofa, taking up a large portion of the flat’s wall.
‘That very one. It’ll be like watching TV. Really shit TV.’
And, with that, they sat and they smoked. And, as it sometimes did, time got away from them a bit. They didn’t exactly pass out, but a session of leaning back against the cushions, which seemed to be a brief loll of the neck, stretched away into minutes, or even hours.
And after he wasn’t sure how long, Alf was roused from his unconsciousness by a loud, sudden high-pitched scream. It wasn’t a voice he really recognised, it definitely wasn’t Ian, so he looked around, shrugged, assumed someone in the building was having a lot more sex than him and let his head loll back again. Probably the couple upstairs, probably not old man Elson.
Who cares, really?
An uncertain amount of time later, Ian got up as well. And he really went for it, too; not only did his head to stir from the sofa, he staggered across to the kitchen to get a drink, strange lights flashing in this eyes.
One of them, in fact, looked worryingly like a red stain spreading down his wall. He knew that ceiling wasn’t entirely impermeable; he’d been worried about the smoke escaping up there earlier, but he sighed, shook his head and went back to lie down. Alf was the one who always yelled, freaked out and panicked, not him. He was going to stay cool.
Couldn’t even remember what they’d been waiting for, to tell you the truth.
And so, heroically, Ian returned to the sofa, looked at it, then thought, actually, he could go to bed couldn’t he? His room was only a few steps away; he wasn’t contractually obliged to pass out in the living room just because Alf had. And to tell the truth, the other guy was snorting and drooling more than Ian was really comfortable with.
So those were the last things either of them remembered of that night. Nothing cohered again until early the next morning when Ian, groaning, levered himself up and returned to the living room and threw the glass of water (that he’d never bothered drinking) over Alf.
‘Oi. Wake up.’
Alf, of course, didn’t calmly stir. He coughed, gurgled and made a great show of almost choking to death. Ian, used to this panto by now, barely reacted. ‘What? What is it, dude? What?’
‘We missed the satellite, you moron. Got too baked, passed out, it shot on by.’
‘Shit.’ Alf paused. ‘Ah well. Was still a fun night.’
‘No, it wasn’t.’
Ian shook his head and returned to their bolt-on kitchen to take another stab at having a drink. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it as far as the tap. Because, it appeared, the red stain had not been a hallucination. In fact, the bloody drips had reached his floor and begun to congeal alongside a few flakes of heavily burnt broccoli.
‘Alf,’ he began, less forcefully than usual, ‘can you come have a look at something for me?’
Yes, blood streaming down the walls. An old-school cliffhanger, perhaps, but there it is. Copyright me 2011, please don’t steal, email me if you want to steal it in an authorised fashion, and read the next part… “Satellite Two”.