Tag Archives: horror

Of The Night by Mark Simmons

Hello all,

It’s been a while.

Time for a shameless plug of my debut novel: Of The Night.

Available from:

AMAZON UK:
 AMAZON USA:

Whitfield Creed had never been one to believe in such things as luck. Yet when he wakes to find he’s hung from a meat hook, in a warehouse, he can’t help but feel his luck may have run out.

A chance meeting with the wrong people immerses Whitfield in an underworld that he had presumed to be no more than folklore. Yet these creatures exist and with eternal life have manipulated mankind from the shadows through the millennia’s.

Trying to come to terms with the way these creatures occupy their eternity Whitfield must live amongst their ranks. With the elders of this ancient society bickering with one another and the constant threat of execution hanging over his head he must try to survive. Whilst also accepting his own immortality.

Of The Night is the debut horror novel by Mark Simmons and is a Tour De force of thrills and scares that will leave the reader breathless and begging for the morning.

Hope you enjoy.

M.

Censoring a Book Cover?

So what are the grounds for censoring a book cover according to Amazon?

A question that is asked by Rayne Hall in the below guest article.

Please read and share this information.

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Amazon’s censors find this book cover offensive.

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Yes, you’ve read this right. I was as astonished as you when I received the email. I had to read it several times before I grasped that they meant it. A quick glance at the calendar assured me that the first of April was well past.

Amazon gave no explanation beyond a vague reference to guidelines, and when I asked for one, I received only silence.

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The book has been published since 2013. with this cover, and been part of several promotions and advertising campaigns on Amazon. The censors didn’t voice an objection when I submitted to book for publication, and they accepted it for promotion and advertising campaigns… until now.

Suddenly, they’ve clamped down and refused.

I read and re-read the guidelines for covers Amazon deems acceptable. I see no rule against pictures of dolls, or against the colours orange and blue, or against the Oregon font. So what rule could this possibly offend against?

When I tweeted about this, everyone responded with the same bafflement.

Tweets

So what triggered the censors? It must be one of these.

1. Perhaps the cover is not “high quality, professional, and visually appealing”? I think the painting by artist Xteve Abanto meets all three criteria, but perhaps I’m mistaken – what do you think?

2. Maybe the text is not “easily understandable to the average customer”? It doesn’t strike me as difficult to understand the words “Thirty Scary Tales”. but maybe Amazon rates its customers’ intelligence lower than I do?

3. The fact that the cover depicts a doll may have triggered a censor’s dirty imagination, conjuring up fantasies of adult toys. The doll’s parted lips might qualify as “poses that may be suggestive of sexual behavior”.

4. Perhaps Amazon uses robots to censor books?

The automated scan may identified the doll’s head as a human face with the high forehead, small nose and large eyes of a child and flagged it up as “Images of human or animal abuse, mistreatment, or distress”. But would Amazon allow a robot to censor a book without a human taking a closer look first?

5. Maybe it was an honest mistake by a human censor who was over-tired, barely able to keep his or her eyes open that day, whose exhausted brain saw something that wasn’t there. But if that was the case, surely Amazon would have replied to my query with an apology and corrected the error at once… at least I would hope so.

6. “Foul, vulgar, or obscene language” – perhaps the word “tales” is vulgar? Or maybe “thirty” has an obscene meaning that I’m not aware of?

7. The rules forbid “excessive blood, injuries, mutilations, guts, corpses, and weapons being used in a violent or threatening manner” – maybe the cracks in the doll’s head are so much more gruesome than the axe-split human skulls on thousands of other covers?

8. Images hinting at “sensitive topics such as hormonal development or changes” are forbidden. Could it be that the censor thinks the crack in the doll’s face and the open eye are caused by hormones?

Rejection

So far, Amazon hasn’t banned my book, only refused to advertise it. Readers can still buy it on Amazon for 99c. viewBook.at/30ScaryTales

But I’m concerned that this may only be the first step. Amazon may remove the book from sale next – and after that, those of other indie authors.

I’m hoping that if we protest loudly enough, and spread the word in the social media, Amazon will reconsider not only this particular book cover, but its approach to censorship.

What do you think is the reason for Amazon’s censorship of this cover – one of the eight possibilities I’ve thought of, or something else altogether? Do you personally find it offensive?

I’ll be grateful if you could share this post on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere.

Rayne

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Rayne Hall has published more than fifty books in several languages under several pen names with several publishers in several genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. She is the author of the bestselling Writer’s Craft series (Writing Fight Scenes, Writing Scary Scenes, Writing About Villains, Writing About Magic and more) and editor of the Ten Tales short story anthologies.

She is a trained publishing manager, holds a Masters degree in Creative Writing, and has worked in the publishing industry for over thirty years.

Having lived in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal, she has now settled in a small dilapidated town of former Victorian grandeur on the south coast of England where she enjoys reading, gardening and long walks along the seashore. She shares her home with a black cat adopted from the cat shelter. Sulu likes to lie on the desk and snuggle into Rayne’s arms when she’s writing.

You can follow here on Twitter http://twitter.com/RayneHall where she posts advice for writers, funny cartoons and cute pictures of her cat.

To see her books on Amazon, go to viewAuthor.at/RayneHall .

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“Update”

At last, someone at Amazon responded. Three weeks of trying to get a statement from the advertising department or any other part of Amazon had brought only silence. After three weeks, an email addressed to Jeff Bezos finally brought a reply from the Executive Customer Department:

> In this case, your ad was not approved because a general audience may find the cover image for “Thirty Scary Tales” to be violent or disturbing.<

Huh? A doll’s head is too violent or disturbing? For readers of horror fiction?

What do you think? Can the general audience browsing horror books on Amazon cope with seeing cracks in the head of a doll?

Viewer

Viewer


Detective Inspector Walter Bambridge stepped past two uniformed officers into the room cast in darkness that had until recently been someone’s home but was now nothing more than a crime scene. A rank odour greeted him as he passed over the threshold, not the usual reek of death that after five years on homicide he still couldn’t get use to, but the smell of grease and left over food. To his right a tiny space that could hardly be called a kitchen seemed to be the cause of the unpleasant fragrance as piles of dirty dishes flooded out of the sink and across every surface. The hallway continued on past the kitchen and Walter paused at what looked like a door but as he looked closer it became apparent to him that it was in fact a set of hanging beads that were being used as a room divider. He parted them with his gloved hand and passed through the makeshift doorway. The beads clattered against each other as he let them go adding sound to the quiet room. Weak light from the nearest streetlamp crept in through the thin curtains from the window to his left casting various shapes in front of him. Walter reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out the miniature torch that resided there. With a click the beam came to life and illuminated a lounge that had been shown as little housekeeping as the kitchen he had just passed. A Television ten years past its best sat in one corner, a coffee table littered with all manner of fast food and confectionary wrappers lay between the Television and a worn along the arms and cushions sofa. More rubbish was scattered across the floor and Walter had to shine the light at his feet so that he didn’t stand on any possible evidence. In the same room but to his right a double bed looked like it had seen better days and had also recently been used. The light cast across the dishevelled sheets, revealing various stains that appeared to have been ground into the fabric, before resting on the discoloured pillows. Walter held the light on a substance that was scattered all over the pillows and with careful footing moved around the bed to get a better look. A full head of hair looked to have been shaved from someone’s skull and was scattered all over the top end of the bed. He considered this image as the sound of the hanging beads rattled their tune and another figure entered the room.

Detective Constable Cynthia Lawrence couldn’t help but turn her nose up at the hideous state that was before her and she had to dip into all her reserves of willpower not to begin cleaning up the mess. She surveyed the room and her eyes soon fell onto the torch lit bed and her superior officer crouching down next to it.

‘What we got, sir?’ Cynthia asked as she shone her own light around the scene.

‘I’m not sure yet.’ Walter turned his light towards her. ‘But watch your feet as there’s crap all over the place.’

Cynthia guided her beam to the floor and skipped her way around the piles of junk so that she could be at Walter’s side.

‘Got a whole lot of human hair all over the pillows, looks like someone did some barber work.’ He paused and turned his torch towards the only other area of the small flat that he had not yet searched, the bathroom. ‘Our victim must be in there.’

Together they approached the closed door; Walter reached out and turned the handle then pushed the door open. A weak strip light gave off some light from above a small sink but the bathroom could be called anything but well lit. There torch light moved across the pristine floor, sink and finally rested on the bathtub or more precisely what hung over the tub. Her legs had been tied at the ankles, the rope cutting deep into her flesh as the whole weight of her body was taken by the knot. The pale nakedness of her form had been disturbed at various pointed by a series of deep cuts made at very specific parts of her anatomy. One along each upper thigh, another across the left side of her mid abdomen, a further two down each of her wrists and a final cut athwart her throat. Her head had been shaved and a look of disbelief stared out at them from her vacant eyes.

Walter got closer and looked at the interior of the bath. ‘Where’s all the blood?’

Cynthia stood by his side and examined the tub. Not a single drop of blood blemished the white surface, the whole area gleamed under the torch light, plughole and taps all spotless. She looked around at the rest of the room and the same clean surfaces as the bathtub were on the floor and even the sink. ‘This room doesn’t fit with the rest of the flat. It’s spotless.’

‘Yeah, they cleaned up after themselves.’ Walter placed a hand on the victim’s right arm and studied the incision. ‘She’s been cleaned too.’ Walter shone the light into the plughole and leant forward to get a better look down the hole. ‘We’ll need Forensics to confirm but I don’t think any of the blood went down there.’ He stood and looked around the room. ‘They took it with them.’


Prince of Darkness

Prince of Darkness. A Film by John Carpenter.


When people talk about John Carpenter Movies they will invariably mention Halloween, The Thing, The Fog, Assault on Precinct 13 and rightly so as they are all examples of Horror and suspense at its cinematic finest. However, I feel that there is not enough noise made about one of his most underrated and overlooked pieces. Prince of Darkness.

Receiving poor reviews upon its release in 1987 the critics said that they found the piece surprisingly cheesy and that it was not up to Carpenter’s usual high standards. In short they tore it apart. I have to disagree with them entirely. From the opening scene right through  to the end credits the feature has an eerie undertone about it. You find yourself constantly on edge and uncomfortable throughout as Carpenter creates what I think is a very intense atmospheric story.

The plot starts with the death of an old Priest from a secret sect called the Brotherhood of Sleep who have been guardians to an undisclosed item that has been kept hidden for centuries. An object so secret that even the Vatican is not aware of its presence. Another Priest is entrusted with the keys to an old church in the downtown Los Angeles area where he discovers an ancient cylinder, full of a strange glowing substance and the container is sealed from the inside. This same priest invites a University Professor with a group of Physics Students and Academics to study the strange object. Their studies uncover that the liquid inside is in fact sentient and is transmitting complex mathematical data to an unknown source.

At the same time news reports that the fallout from a Supernova that exploded thousands of years ago, light years away in deep space has now reached our planet and is causing adverse effects on our global ecosystem. As the story unfolds the liquid is set free and the group must fight for survival as members of their own group become possessed by the liquid. Their exit from the church is blocked by a gang of homeless people, led by Alice Cooper, (yes Alice Cooper!) who are being controlled by the life-force gaining power within. Anyone who tries to leave are set upon by the street people and murdered. All of this culminates in an ending that has such wonderful imagery that it still haunts me whenever I decide on giving it another viewing.

What I particularly like about the movie is the questions it poses in the Science versus Religion argument as the Priest and Professor both give their opinions on what is happening around them and what they can do about it. Ultimately they are both proven wrong. The idea of an ancient Religious artefact being awoken eons of years after its imprisonment by a natural phenomenon that occurred millions of light years away from Earth intrigues me. Is it just coincidence that the essence inside is becoming self-aware or was the explosion of the Star pre-empted by the being in the cylinder and it has been lying in wait for this moment?

The concept of what the substance within the cylinder is and its eventual goal are interesting ideas that have not really been broached particularly in any movie I have seen. If anyone out there knows otherwise please tell me so that I can check it out. I also love the idea of the task that the creature within is trying to achieve once it has been set free. The first time I saw Prince of Darkness it opened up a whole new level of thinking for myself that I had never considered before.

On a lighter note another thing to watch out for during the Movie is the incredible 80’s fashion and hairstyles. Mullets reign supreme and stone-wash Denim rears its ugly head sometimes in Jacket and Jeans combinations. Strangely enough the character in it that would have been called the stereotypical nerd back in 1987 is probably dressed in a style that would be called fashionable in this day and age. It would not be out of the question to see many a Hipster shambling around Shoreditch East London in the exact same outfit.

So in short, watch it, fear it and hopefully love it.


The ‘Burbs.

The ‘Burbs. A film by Joe Dante.


I grew up in what was by no means the rural outskirts of a city and was not within sixty miles of what the government class as a city in England, but it certainly had that feel about it. My childhood residence was in a cul-de-sac so this movie has a very close place not only in my funny bone but also to my youthful years. My folks were by no means people who would twitch curtains and are not what I would call nosy but they certainly had an interest in what went on and still goes on in their little corner of the world. The Burbs takes this nosy neighbour idea, multiplies it by a considerable number, adds paranoia and general boredom to the character’s lives and tops it off with a very American cold war unease but without the actual threat.

What makes this Movie so enjoyable for me is not the plot, as it is pretty singular and you think is only ever going to come to one conclusion, but the different characters that interact within the piece. Each member of the neighbourhood adds their own elements to the story and the comedy, the stressed business man who is taking a week off work to relax only to have his plans dashed by his interfering neighbours. His wife who can see her husband getting more and more worked up by the events unfolding before her and continuously tries to help him relax. The two main culprits that drag her husband into all the stupid games are a Korean War veteran with every type of military equipment available for them to do all the spying that want and his partner in crime a bored house husband with too much time on his hands and an overactive imagination. With the laid-back teenager, painting his parent’s house for the summer whilst they are away, looking in on the whole scenario as if he is almost part of the audience. All of them are spying on and surmising over the movements and habits of the less than social new family on the street with the run down house and unkempt lawn. It is this lack of social interaction that brings about the main plot device. Who are the Klopek’s? When did they move in and how many of them are there?

What I think also draws me to it are the subtle underlying levels of horror and peril that are thrown in throughout posing a very real question that we must all ask ourselves at times. How well do we actually know our neighbours? You may disagree, thinking that it is merely a comedy, but I think that there is a very fine line between horror and comedy. This seems to be a running theme throughout many of Joe Dante’s movies, Gremlins, Innerspace and The Howling all having their roots grounded in comedy but including sinister undertone.

A number of people within my social circle all share the same appreciation for this movie as I do and we have been known to spend an overly long time discussing it, sometimes on a meaningful level, but mostly with jovial recollection.  One of my sisters used to sit and watch it with me when we were younger and my wife beamed about the fond memories the movie gave her the first time we discussed it. A number of my close friends all perk up and discuss it at length when it enters conversation. However, I have also seen people give a very negative opinion about the film and as with most comedy the humour in it is not for everyone. Many a time my sister and I would be watching the movie when my Mother would enter the room and state ‘I hate this film’ in her broad Geordie accent before turning around and exiting the lounge as soon as possible. Another of my sister’s also use to leave the room if we decided ‘The Burbs’ was what was going to be watched, although a lot less vocally than Mum.

The paranoia of the unknown neighbours takes the lead characters measures of finding out more about the Klopek’s to the extreme when they start using night vision goggles to spy on them in the dark. Slip notes under the outcast’s front door, ringing the door bell and then running away like a group of mischievous schoolboys. Forcibly stopping the Bin men from doing their jobs by going through the Klopek’s bins in the middle of the street, in search of any shred of incriminating evidence they can find.

When an elderly neighbour’s dog shows up cold and shaking they presume the worst, thinking that his absence is down to the Klopek’s, so they take it on themselves to check and see if the he is okay. After some snooping around and some breaking and entering they get into the house. Signs of a struggle in the lounge area send the imaginations of the group into overdrive and a whole new bunch of even more outrageous ideas are hatched.

The wives are more sceptical, deciding to put a stop to everything by inviting themselves over to the new Neighbours house and cooking Brownies as a greeting gift. The Klopek’s very reservedly invited their neighbours in offering them pretzels and sardines. What follows are in my opinion moments of comedy gold. Awkward silences and stumbled attempts at pleasantries are the crux of the scene with the social inadequacies of the new family made even more apparent by the invasion of their home. The evening ends when an uninvited guest makes a rather loud entrance through the back garden.

Having had a chance to snoop around the Klopek’s house the husbands hatch a plot to have a more though look around the house when the occupants are away on business the very next day. Again, moments of comic genius unfurl in an over the top and very Hollywood ending.

My conclusion is that if you are at a loss for something to do this coming Sunday why not get hold of a copy of the ‘Burbs, leave all sensible thinking behind you and enjoy this little gem.


Everything that stands. Part 4.

Everything that stands. Part 4.


Will and Luther raced forward to where Nita and Joshua had just been but over the handrail they could see only the dark outlines of the street below. A heavy foot from overhead brought their attentions back to where they were. Countless creatures streamed down the walkway and had almost reached the level above. The fire exit on that floor burst open releasing yet more beings out into the night.

They took off, spiralling down the metallic shaft at a pace that their pursuers had no chance of keeping up with and they were soon at the base of the staircase. A wire mesh fence greeted them with a padlock on the inside keeping the entrance firmly closed.

Will aimed his gun at the lock but Luther put his hand on the weapon and lowered his friends aim. ‘That lock might give us a bit of time.’ Luther said. ‘Let’s go up a level and jump down.’ Will grimaced at the idea but with a nod agreed and the two of them ventured back up one flight. ‘You go first kid and I’ll be right behind you.’ Will nodded in agreement and lowered himself over the side. He landed and instantly took in his surroundings. The alleyway was shrouded in shadows and even after a few moments his eyes would not adjust to the pitch. To his right a dark puddle had formed on the pavement and it slowly leaking towards his feet. The sound of teeth scraping against bone turned his stomach and he dreaded the sight that he knew would hail him just hidden in the darkness. Luther landed next to him and immediately flicked open his lighter to see what had caught Will’s eye.

The flame flickered in the breeze which cast dancing shades of light across the two bodies at their feet. Nita’s right arm had shattered on impact, the Humerus jutted out the top of her shoulder and her legs were spread apart broken at inhuman angles. Joshua laid across the top of her, his legs also a bloody mess and he appeared to be kissing her. As the light enveloped the scene Joshua became aware of his audience and lifted his head. With a sickening rip Nita’s lower lip came with him and he greedily consumed the tender meat. With a devilish grin Joshua crawled over Nita’s corpse and reached out for them. Before Will could react Luther stepped forward and put his laces of his boot through Joshua’s face. The rest was lost to Will in the shadows but the sound of Luther’s boot caving in Joshua’s skull could not be hidden.

‘Luther.’ Will waited for sounds of violence to stop. ‘We need to go.’

Luther stepped over the carnage he had partly created and took a deep breath.  ‘Let’s go.’

From the heavens light cascaded down onto them as a break in the cloud cover revealed the Moon in its full glory. The stairwell behind them came alive with the horde that now pressed against the padlocked fence. They backed away from the bulging wire mesh and crept towards the street. Things moved in the far reaches of the alleyway before them, drawn towards the sounds of their fellow beings bashing against their metal cage. Legs shattered beyond repair Nita dragged herself towards them, her half eaten face oozing blood down across her chin giving her the appearance that she was smiling at them. With one last look of pity Will aimed his firearm and pulled the trigger. The bullet caught Nita just above the left eye, shattering the back of her skull and ceasing her movements forever. The two of them spun and ventured out into the city.

The flashing orange light from their goal was easy to follow through the abandoned city streets and they were soon testing the armoured car’s locks. With a pleasing click the driver’s door opened, Will flung it open and glanced inside.

‘I’m gonna need your lighter.’ Will offered a hand for Luther to give him the Zippo.

‘No time.’ Luther pointed to the gathering crowd approaching them. He pulled the passenger driver side door open and climbed into the back. Will followed his example and climbed into the driver seat. Like a snake Luther worked his way up through the hole in the turret on the roof. Will searched around the steering column looking for the keys but they did not hang from their dock, so he began to look around the cabin but the poor light prevented him from seeing the interior.

‘Luther!’ He called back into the rear. ‘I’m gonna need that lighter.’ Will noticed movement ahead and took in the scene in front of him for the first time. Forms had begun to sidle out into the Luna lit road, their shambolic movements slowly starting to unite into an increasing mob. Then the clouds did what they do and took away the natural light, the hellish picture somehow taking on an even more sinister look.

Will reached back and placed a hand on Luther’s leg. ‘I’m gonna need a distraction too.’

Luther’s hand shot down to meet his and thrust the lighter into Will’s. ‘What do you need me to do?’ Luther replied.

‘Shoot everything that stands.’ Will flicked the lighter on and immediately began searching for the keys. Above him violence barked out its automatic cry.

Luther lost all sense of time as the bullets cut apart the first ranks of the Living Dead, then the second row, and the third. Each wave bathed in an orange glow briefly before they fell, the road soon becoming littered with the peppered carcases of so many unfortunate souls. His focus on all that approached his line of sight and yet so many shadows still cast across hidden foes from so many different angles. He aimed at all that he could see but even that was not enough.

So much debris littered the vehicle. Used shells formed a golden blanket across most the seating and floor and continued to spread as more empty cartridges rained down into the back compartment. The flame danced its dance with Will searching through every inch of the large armoured people carrier, his ears ringing as the miniature cannon overhead bellowed its tune. Something caught his eye, he dove down into the metal sea and his hand clasped around what he was probing for. In his excitement his gripped loosened on the lighter, it cartwheeled out of his hand snapping shut as it hit the floor but he disregarded it and jumped into the driver seat. The keys slotted pleasingly into the ignition and with a satisfying choke the engine spluttered into life. Will released the handbrake and floored the automatic accelerator.

Bodies crunched and popped under the transports weight. Figures appeared in front of him and then vanished under the front bumper. He picked up to a steady pace and then let out the breath he had been holding. With this sudden release his ears regained some of their use and told him that the turret had stopped. Will chanced a look over his shoulder and found the empty void of death staring back at him through rotting eye sockets. He ducked to the side to avoid the oncoming teeth and fumbled at his belt buckle to draw his firearm. From the darkness ahead an abandoned car was parked in their path and before Will could react the two automobiles collided. His ribs cracked as they ploughed into the steering wheel, the body behind him adding to the blow before it sailed past him and struck the wind screen head first. Its blood plastered the broken window and the flesh on the skull torn back over its forehead. Its head was stuck in the hole the collision had created yet the creature still reached for him, fingers wrapping around his left arm. With a scream of terror his right arm came up from his lap and the revolver opened up into the back of its head. A second bullet silenced it and before he knew it the chamber sounded empty, the fingers around his arm became loose. Will tried to take a breath but it felt like a paving slab lay across his lungs. He lost consciousness.

A long slow soulless moan brought him back from oblivion.

Blood foamed on his lips and a sharp pain stabbed into his left hand side. Gasping for air realisation hit him and he remembered his current predicament. A forceful shove moved the body draped over his left shoulder onto the passenger seat and he painfully turned to see if Luther was still alive.

The tall West Indian’s legs swung down into the cabin and the confined space rattled to life as used casings scattered under his feet. The friendly smile of Luther greeted him no more, only the tattered leftovers of a face hung from the head, all resemblance of humanity lost in his one remaining eye. Behind him another body fell through the hole, followed by a third. More joined them as they pressed down onto their next meal.

 THE END


Everything that stands. Part 3.

Everything that stands. Part 3.


Will returned to his three comrades and paused as he saw the torn flesh that hung from Joshua’s ruined left buttock, his eyes darted towards Luther’s and the tall man looked away.

‘I’ve checked the whole suite and there’s nothing in here that can help us.’ All three of them deflated at Will’s words. ‘But looking out onto the street below I saw something that could be of use.’

‘Down on the street?’ Nita barked. ‘What fucking good is that?’ Her eyes had welled up with tears and she looked away from the three men.

‘Let’s see what it is before we disregard it.’ Luther added. ‘Let’s go have a look.’

‘Anything to keep me occupied.’ Joshua joked. ‘I might need a hand though.’ He put his weight on his leg but it buckled under him. Luther stepped forward to help but Nita got in the way.

‘I’ve got him.’ She said slipping in under his left arm.

Will turned and headed back into the suite with everyone in tow. He led them to the bedroom which was dominated by a lavish four poster bed and a window that took up the entire wall to the right of the room. The four of them looked out at the black city scape, fires blazing through various buildings providing the only sign of activity. Will pointed to the street below where a single orange hazard light spun on top of a shadowed vehicle and with each turn of the lamp a little more of the transport revealed itself. The four seated Humvee with a mounted machine gun on top had clearly been left by the Military when they had evacuated or been overrun the distinction between the two had long been forgotten. A broad smile crept across Luther’s lips.

‘How are we going to get down there?’ Joshua asked between gritted teeth.

‘Every hotel in the city has to have a fire escape from the roof to the ground floor.’ Will replied. ‘We just have to find it.’

‘I hate to burst everyone’s bubble but even if we get down there and the damn thing is unlocked there is no saying that it will have any fuel in it.’ Nita shifted under the weight of Joshua.

‘It’s a chance I’m willing to take.’ Will responded. ‘None of you have to follow me but it’s the best looking option to come my way in a long time.’ He was already moving towards the door before anyone could give a response. Luther looked at the two interlocked partners, shrugged his shoulders and followed Will out of the room.

Will lingered at the front door to the apartment, listening at the door but hearing nothing. Luther appeared at his shoulder and also pressed his ear to the wood. Both delayed moving for longer than was needed, glancing at each other to see if either of them could make out any sounds from the corridor. Finally they gave up and stepped away from the door. Will stretched out a hand and turned the handle, in the silence it screeched like the brakes of a bus and they both cringed. He pulled the door open, stepped out into the poorly lit corridor and instantly he wished that he hadn’t dropped the torch earlier. Gloom greeted him from both directions and either end of the corridor was lost to the lack of light. Luther joined him in the darkness and began to fish around in his jeans pocket. With a snap and click his lighter sparked to life. Even with the extra brightness they could still not make out one end from the other.

‘You lead the way.’ Will offered. ‘I’m right behind you with this.’ He waved the gun into the light. With a nod Luther began down the hall to their left, slowly they edged further into the obscurity in front of them. A door appeared to their right so Luther tried the lock but it didn’t move. They moved on. Gradually the light began to bounce back at them from a metal double door as the lift became visible and to its left a white wooden door with stairs written above it.

‘Do we try the stairs? Luther whispered but Will whipped a finger up to his lips and then pointed at his ear. They both listened. At first it sounded like the wind blowing through a crack in the doorframe but as it got louder that familiar sound of heavy breathing and shuffling feet echoed up the stairwell. Slowly the two men back away, never taking their eyes of the white exit and retracing their steps. Just as the door became engulfed by the dark something bashed into it and the wooden frame splintered. The thump was followed by another, then a third and with a groan the door gave way generating the sound of multiple forms stumbling into the corridor.

Luther snapped his lighter shut whilst turning on his heel and ran. From the darkness ahead two figures crept towards them and Will raised his weapon ready to fire.

‘It’s us you fool.’ Nita barked at him before he could get off a shot. ‘I take it from your running that we shouldn’t be headed in that direction?’

‘They’re up the stairwell and in the corridor. We have to try the other direction.’ Will didn’t stop to tell her and was already past her midsentence.

He disregarded the darkness ahead of him continuing on at a constant pace and just as he was about to give up hope another white door materialised out of the pitch at him but above this one read Fire Exit. Without slowing down he hit the push to release bar and burst out into the evening air. A quick glance down the metal stairwell produced the all clear he was hoping for and he returned his attention to the open exit in front of him.

Three figures staggered out of the dimness before him, Luther and Nita struggling with an unconscious Joshua draped over their shoulders his feet dragging along behind them. Behind them a wall of rotting flesh flowed through the darkness. Will stepped to the side to let them through and slammed the door shut behind them.

‘All clear below.’ Will stated as he pushed against the door.

Luther glanced back at Will as they stumbled down the steps. ‘Leave that, they’ll be through it before you can get away.’ Will considered the suggestion, looked around at the tight staircase and then followed.

As they reached the floor below something crashed against the metal fire escape above, follow by another thump and then finally the door swinging open. It struck the handrail with such force that the whole staircase shook and knocked the four fleers of balance. Will caught himself before he could fall hooking an arm around the nearest piece of structure. Nita was not as lucky as her grip on Joshua came loose and she stumbled forward down the next flight of steps catching herself on the barrier at the foot of them. Luther managed to keep his footing whilst retaining a hold on Joshua’s shirt but the injured man lost his balance and landed heavily on his backside.

Will looked up and saw them swarming out onto the stairwell above. He picked himself up and caught up with Luther. ‘Is everyone alright?’ Luther nodded in agreement. Nita looked up to them with a smile which soon faded.

Joshua stared at her but his eyes didn’t have the caring depth that she was used to, only the cold face of death peered at her. With a jolt Joshua lurched forward and reached out for his partner. Nita had no time to react as Joshua’s hands wrapped around her left shoulder and the right side of her waist. His momentum overcame them both, her back bent against the strain causing her to scream and his weight took them toppling over the railing.

TOO BE CONCLUDED