Thursday, 14 August 2014

Horror Bites Challenge #9 - "Eye-Tech"

Alpha Beta Gamma...Bite!



As a house writer for the Future Chronicles zine, I've been throwing together several ideas for the next installment of the Chaos Halo series. When Laura from Office Mango posted another Horror Bite challenge, I could not disengage from my Sci-Fi world.

The flash fiction story that follows is a taster of the Chaos Halo series, featuring Abigale (aka - Alpha Beta Gamma Kill). Read the first story in the series on a previous blog post or visit the Future Chronicles website.

For those who are unfamiliar with the challenge: write a bite of flash fiction (200-350 words) inspired by an image (see right, and yes, I admit I adapted it for the Sci-Fi element). More info about the challenge can be found on Laura's blogAll she asks is: "Try to scare me, or at the very least create a little bit of darkness".

Well, Laura, have a bit of dark science fiction...



Eye-Tech


Alpha Beta Gamma Kill - a Chaos Halo story

By Mark Cassell
(350 words)

         She stamped on the eyeball and it popped. White gunk and circuitry splayed across the pavement.
         “See,” Abigale said, “cybernetic.”
         Quiver leaned against the wall. He scratched his beard. “You have issues.”
         At their feet lay a man’s body, a man who’d tried to blend in with the crowd of starving citizens—and failed. His face was a red mess where Abigale had thrust her blade into an eye socket. “My Halo shows me things.”
         “He’s definitely one of the mutrient thieves?”
         Abigale nodded and crouched, leather creaking. She speared her finger into the gaping hole and it squelched.
         “Somewhere in here,” she said, “will be the transmitter.”
         “He’s half-human...”
         She gestured behind them. “He’s inhuman to allowed these people to starve.”
         Desperate citizens huddled in the shadows of derelict buildings. They watched Abigale probe deeper into the man’s head. Her finger brushed something and a series of glyphs flashed across her vision; the Halo confirming the transmitter. She hooked it out and blood flicked up her sleeve.
         Quiver took the device and plugged it into the flesh-tech on his arm. With rapid keystrokes, he pinpointed the receiver.
         “Close,” he said. “Two blocks south.”
         Abigale stood and unstrapped Toothpick, her cannon. Its nozzles pointing downwards, she faced the crowd. “Follow us.”
         They did, surprisingly silent.
         And when Quiver led them round a final corner, he pointed at the rusted bulk of an eight-wheeled transport. "There."
         Abigale lifted Toothpick and fired at the door. Metal shredded in flame and smoke.
         Inside sat a man at a computer console, his heaviness spilling over a chair. Boxes of mutrient tablets surrounded him, each containing several thousand pills. He held a handful in front of his mouth, chewing. Wide eyes reflected the fire that trickled along the torn remains of the door.
         He blinked.
         Abigale and Quiver stepped back as the crowd rushed the vehicle. A pair of women, their clothes little more than rags, dragged the man down onto the pavement. One woman soon had his face clamped between bloody hands. The other tore out his eyes.
         She ate them while he screamed.
         
         

Courtesy of John Burrell Photography (c)2014

Did you enjoy the flash fiction?

Here are the opening pages of The Shadow Fabric


Unable to blink, I shot a quick glance around the dining room. My heartbeat stormed my head. I had to get out of there, I had to leave the other men to it. These brothers had a lot of hate to throw around.
       The black fabric draped across the table and chair, tracing every contour. It flowed over the wood like liquid. Hugging tight whatever it touched, it turned everything into a shadow, a silhouette, a featureless dark blot of its former self. The way it moved defied physics.
       My throat clamped around a cry that came out a whimper.
       I had no idea what Stanley intended. The strange fabric didn’t travel far from his hand, and where the material ended, it rippled and pulsed, pulling further away, yet unable to claim more of its surroundings. The more it unfolded, the dimmer the room became. My skin itched as it sapped the light.
       Victor and Stanley stood facing each other: Victor, with his eyebrows pushed together, the ornate blade clenched in a fist, and Stanley, with his jaw tight and a twitch at the edge of his mouth. In Stanley’s grasp the fabric quivered, its material reminding me of the way midday sunlight reflects from the surface of a swimming pool, the ripples a criss-crossing of movement. It was peaceful to behold, hypnotic almost. But this thing was dark and stifling to observe.
       There was nothing remotely tranquil about this.
       I wanted to leave them to whatever absurd game this was…yet my feet refused to move. The familiar ache in my knee rushed through my body, drumming in my skull, telling me I was useless. Since the car accident the knee often was useless. I couldn’t leave Victor, I knew that. The man looked as terrified as I felt.
       “I hate you, Victor.” Stanley’s nose was no more than a thumb’s width from his brother’s.
       “No,” Victor gasped. His hand shook, his knuckles whitening around the knife. “Don’t!”
       I didn’t know who or what Victor spoke to. Was it Stanley? The shadows? The knife?
       In a blur of darkness, shadows coiling his arm, the blade slammed into Stanley’s chest. Blood spread and he staggered back.
       Victor’s eyes widened. Clutching the weapon, he stumbled from the fireplace, away from his brother. The knife slid out, sucking at the wound. A jet of scarlet misted the air, and then oozed.
       I could only see darkness…so much darkness, and my lungs went tight.
       The fabric—the Shadow Fabric—closed around Stanley’s buckling legs.
       The remaining material swept from the table, away from the violin case. Black tentacles whipped and grabbed Stanley. The darkness enfolded him as his eyes glazed over. It dragged his body along the carpet a short distance and tightened its grip.
       My jaw muscles twitched as I clenched my teeth.
       The Fabric began to shrink. Still in its embrace, the last I saw of Stanley was his dead stare.
       “Vic…” I whispered, and gripped the back of the sofa.
       My boss dragged his eyes away from the retreating shadows and stared at the knife. Behind him, the mantel clock hammered out several seconds before the weapon slipped from his hand onto the carpet, where it bounced with a red splash.
       He fell to his knees. “Oh God.”
       The Fabric vanished.
       I dashed across the room as much as my leg would allow and staggered to a halt beside him. Sobs wracked his frame as I grasped his bony shoulder.
       On the table next to where Stanley had been standing was the violin case, still open like a crooked yawn.
       A million thoughts tumbled through my head, but I couldn’t find the words. I’d been Victor’s chauffeur for no more than a day, and already I’d witnessed him stab his own brother. What the hell?
       I don’t know how long I remained like that, holding him, with light creeping reluctantly back into the room. Victor shouldn’t have been surprised that the shadows had taken his brother. After all, those shadows—the darkness—are associated with all that is dead…or should be dead.
       Silence clogged the air like we were buried in a tomb.
       For some of us, there is a moment in our lives where all we’ve believed real is whipped out from under us and we’re left to survive in a world that’s a lie. All the things in life we’ve taken for granted are sheathed in a weak veneer, behind which stands the shadows.
       For me, this was one of those moments.



Mark Cassell's dark fantasy novel is available
from all bookshops and also Amazon.

    

Author photo (c)Christopher Shoebridge
Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK with his wife and a number of animals. He often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, fantasy, and SF stories have featured in several anthologies and ezines.

His debut novel, The Shadow Fabric, is a supernatural story and is available from Amazon.


Twitter: @Mark_Cassell Facebook: www.facebook.com/AuthorMarkCassell

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