Danny Breslin

How it is…

The Spin

The Earth is slowing down!

It appeared simultaneously on the front page of every newspaper all over the world. On every news channel and talk show on every television and radio: scientists predict…government officials confirm.

Astrophysicists scratched their heads: where did that come from? There was no evidence that the rotation of the planet was slowing. If it was one so-called expert publishing a paper then he would be laughed out of the science community, but it seems to be coming from all angles at once. Some of them did interviews rebuking the claims but their voices were not heard.

Before long anyone who argued the validity of these claims were called “Spin-Deniers”, doubt was cast on their right to call themselves scientists. How can they be when they can’t see the danger that is staring us all in the face? Conspiracy theorists – in other words crazies! Grants and funding began to be withdrawn as the Spin-Deniers were left out in the cold and publicly humiliated. Many toed the line after that.

In several countries new laws were passed; anyone denying the truth and refuting the hard facts about the Earth’s slowing could be liable to imprisonment without trial for an undetermined sentence. Nearly all toed the line after that.

The world held its breath as the President of the United States flanked by the Prime Minister of Great Britain, the Chancellor of Germany, the President of France and Secretary-General of the United Nations began the most viewed press conference in history:

“Yes, it has been confirmed by top scientists, the Earth is slowing on its axis at an alarming rate. It is without doubt the biggest threat to humanity that we have ever faced.

It has been calculated that if it continues to slow at this rate then an extinction level event is inevitable. Within 50 years the moon will become detached from our orbit. When that happens it could drift off into space leaving us with catastrophic weather events. Or it could collide with us ending all life on the planet.”

Someone at the back of the attending audience laughed in disbelief: “absolute nonsense” he cried, before being quietly led away by men in suits and radio receivers in one ear.

The President continued: “Within 60 years the atmosphere will dissipate completely and this planet will begin moving ever faster towards the sun.

There is hope though. To find a solution we need to understand the cause. The Earth is slowing down due to overpopulation at the equator creating drag. Now, if we were to move quickly to depopulate these areas we could avoid our destruction because the planet would speed up naturally to its former rate of revolutions.

The vacated areas will be reassigned as agricultural land and enough bio fuel can be produced to solve all our energy problems. The people themselves, who from now on will be referred to as “The Removed”, will be taken care of. They will initially be housed in specially designed staging camps in various locations around the world. There’s no need to worry about them because they will be there for a short time only before being re-located on a more… permanent basis. We hope this will be the final solution to that particular question.”

July 31, 2014 Posted by | Short Stories | , , , , | 5 Comments

Popeye’s Corner

Popeye couldn’t remember when he had become invisible. He remembered a time when he wasn’t, but the moment between being visible and becoming invisible was lost to him.

Perhaps it had been a gradual process: the colour slowing fading from him like an old photograph until he became transparent; his particles no longer wishing to stay solid turned him into a fine mist before disappearing altogether. Perhaps he had merely gone out as if a switch had been flicked – there one second and gone the next. He looked down, confused as to how an invisible man still cast a shadow.

Popeye had stood on this corner every day for more days than he could count. He had nowhere else to go. He had a home just up the way a little, a place where he slept, but he couldn’t bear to be in there during the day. Not without Irene.

Popeye was little more than a boy when he met Irene. He was at a dance in the town with his mates, the weekend before he shipped out. Excited at the adventures that lay ahead overseas, yet the moment he saw her across the room he knew he no longer wanted to go.

He’d never been scared of anything in his life before, but walking up to her that night and asking her to dance was the bravest thing he had ever done, or would ever do. They danced together all night until the band stopped playing. He walked her home, taking as small a step as he could, as they talked of everything they could think of, holding hands, happy. When they reached her door she stood on tiptoes and planted a little peck on his cheek and made him promise he’d come home safe.

Months of humping his rifle and pack in a stinking sweaty jungle, never knowing if they were waiting behind the next tree to ambush him, and every day all he could think of was getting home to Irene. Then one day he walked proudly back up her street in his uniform, topped off with his shiny medal, and claimed his prize. They married within a month and she gave him a precious daughter within a year.

He worked at the mill every day then came home to his wife and child a happy man. Eventually Elizabeth grew up and married to have a family of her own. He and Irene had the house to themselves and made plans for his retirement. They would travel the whole world.

It was the day he finished his very last shift and walked in the house newly retired when Irene first complained of feeling ill. They didn’t get to fulfil all those dreams because it didn’t take long for the cancer to see to her. He remembered clearly the day after the funeral, he left the house at first light and went and stood on the corner where his street met the main road. He didn’t return home until the sun went down. Without his Irene there was nothing there for him; the house was empty, dead. He stood on the corner and watched the world go by.

At first the locals stopped to talk to him. After a while it was reduced to nods and waves. Another generation and nobody knew him at all. People hurried by, the only recognition he got was from children who teased him because he vaguely resembled a cartoon character who like him had one eye larger than the other, smoked a pipe and shaved his head as he had been doing for years since his hair went thin on top. Somehow the name stuck and everyone started referring to him as Popeye. That was until he became invisible altogether.

Nobody spoke to him anymore; he hadn’t spoken to his daughter Elizabeth for a good while. The only reason he knew she was even alive was because she let herself in once a week to leave groceries for him and pick up the money he leaves for her. Popeye wasn’t even sure how old his grandchildren were by now.

The world kept turning and the seasons kept changing but one thing remained constant, Popeye would be stood on the corner. One day some local teenagers noticed he was there, how they could see him he didn’t know. They encircled him, taunting him, using language so foul that if their parents had anything about them they’d wash their mouths out with soap!

Popeye stood there, he did nothing. They’d get bored eventually and move along, leave an old man alone. A tear sprang up in his large eye and he tried to blink it back but they’d seen it. The taunting went to a new level:

“Look he’s crying!”

“Ahh, poor old bastard, want the nasty lads to leave you alone?”

“I think that might be advisable boys…” The voice behind them made them stop and spin around. The man behind them was in his late thirties at a guess, Popeye knew his dad and his granddad. Had seen him grow up from a scruffy little urchin but he’d never spoke to him. That was probably because Popeye was invisible.

The youngsters struggled to find courage amongst themselves; this was a live one, a much different prospect to a crazy old man. One of them stepped forward “Or what?”

He was grabbed by the lapels and dragged up onto his toes. “Or else I’ll give you the hiding of your life kid. This is Popeye’s corner and you’re not welcome on it. ”

The lad paled as he was let go, one last shout of bravado but they were already retreating: “I’ll have my dad on you.”

Popeye’s rescuer laughed, “I know your old man and he knows where to find me, I doubt he’ll turn up though.” He turned then to Popeye: “You need anything Popeye you know where to find me, yeah?” Then he walked away.

Dusk was gathering and it was time to head home. As he walked up his street Popeye smiled to himself for the first time in…who knows how long? He thought maybe he’d give Elizabeth a call.

At last, he was visible again.

February 28, 2014 Posted by | Short Stories | , , | 16 Comments

Lasting Impressions

This is a sort of sequel to my last post First Impressions, it’s the same story told from the opposite perspective. So, if you haven’t already, please read First Impressions before reading this. Enjoy!

Standing on the platform, eyes bright and ever watchful, belying the ease of his pose. Surrounded by his mates, a womb-like comfort that he was addicted to and could never leave. Voices raised, laughter; the afterglow of a big win shining on the faces of them all. Chatting to Spinky, the ex-keeper, retired but enshrined in their hearts as a hero of the former European glory.

Not a thing was missed by them, dozens of eyes feeding information to the central brain that they shared when together. Watching for signs of a challenge. Would the other lot still have a firm out? They filed out in disappointment at the final whistle, while his lot danced, hugged and punched the air in jubilation. You never knew though – spotters at the top of the steps, forming a perimeter.

The train eased itself into the station and they moved to the edge of the platform waiting for the doors to open. The space appeared and they surged through like the Forlorn Hope at a breached fortress wall. First in got a seat, the rest stood in the aisle. His nearest and dearest grabbed some seats by the doors. One taken by a woman, he sat next to her.

As he approached she lifted her head and glanced at him. He was taken aback but showed no reaction, although one watching him closely might have seen a slight widening of his eyes but no more than that. In that briefest of moments he took in her raven hair. The delicate bone structure and porcelain skin like a statue of a goddess carved by a master. He saw her deep dark eyes. Yet that wasn’t what he reacted to. He also saw the look of contempt she wore, it was gone in the blink of an eye but he saw it.

He took his place next to her, unwelcome warmth felt creeping up his neck. It was a look he’d seen so many times in so many faces. Teachers, bosses, old bill. Telling him he’s nothing, worth nothing, will never be anything. It shouldn’t have bothered him, what do any of them know? His greatest fear was they might be right. Maybe that’s why he’d never really tried.

Here though, amongst the lads it didn’t matter. They were one. If they were something special then so was he because he was part of the whole. Here he didn’t have to be anyone because he was part of something. Here was real.

All that mattered was the lads, the weekend and the football. Casual violence with any takers, casual sex with any girl that crossed his path; he was a casualty of the love of a casual life. If he never amounted to anything then who cares because tomorrow never fucking comes.

Talking about the game with his lads, looking forward to getting back and getting rat-arsed. He wanted to ignore the snotty bitch next to him, what did her opinion matter? She saw a thug when she looked at him, a Neanderthal. Maybe that was what he wanted the world to see. If they wrote him off then he wouldn’t have to try to be someone, saves time. So why did it bother him so much what she thought?

He felt an itch that he needed to scratch; he’d speak to her and see where it took him. Let’s find a button to push. If she wanted to see a caveman then why disappoint her? They were getting off in a couple of stops anyway. He looked to see what she was reading, and realised it was in French. That just made it worse: how could she, a foreigner, have the temerity to look down her nose at him?

“What are you reading?” he asked, just to make her feel uncomfortable. He didn’t expect her to answer, or even acknowledge him. Fair play to her though she did acknowledge him by showing off the cover. He didn’t even read the title, he just said “I haven’t read that.” He clocked the sneer that curled the corner of her lip. Bitch.

The other lads around him stopped talking, watching him work, waiting for him to fail. They’d all spotted her as they piled into the carriage and there wasn’t one of them who didn’t fancy her, but fancying someone and actually having the balls to drop a line on her was something different when you’re sober. The joyful buzz of the pre-match beers had long worn off.

“What’s your name?” he continued. No way was she going to answer that.

“Ophelia.” She’s a game ‘un alright they silently agreed with shared glances. There was majesty about her that the others thought would leave their mate out of his depth.

“Hamlet’s girlfriend?”

“You’ve read Hamlet?”

The over-emphasis on you’ve didn’t escape him, it also didn’t surprise him. The first goal was scored though – get them talking. “Sure,” he replied, “he lost the plot and she topped herself.” It didn’t matter that he’d never read Hamlet, he’d just paraphrased a line out of the film Trading Places but she wasn’t to know that.

She seemed impressed though and her body language began to betray her as she turned to face him. He flashed her the winning smile that he knew the women loved, all cute like a little boy; igniting the little mothering flame that burns in their hearts. A little hint of pink in her cheek and he knew he was 2-0 up.

“So what is your name?” she asked touching her hair, the winner was being set up for him to put away and win the match.

“Hamlet.” She laughed. And right then and there he knew there was no coming back for her, game over. “He made her laugh: 3-0. The crowd goes wild,” the commentator is screeching into his microphone “…and the ref is looking at his watch, preparing to raise his whistle to his lips…”

The train pulled into the station, the lads were piling up at the door waiting to spill onto the platform. Change trains for home. He got up and headed out after them, feeling good about himself – he’d shown her! As a final insult he turned at the door, flashed the winning smile again and mouthed au revoir to her and stepped out.

The doors closed and with that the spell was broken and reality slapped him down hard. He wanted so much to be the man of the moment but all he’d done was show himself to be an arrogant prick. He wanted the doors to re-open, wanted a second chance to explain himself. Yet without an audience how could he perform? A clown needs someone to laugh doesn’t he?

The distance between himself and the lads was growing as they headed up the platform, as was the distance between him and the train as it was swallowed by the hungry black throat of the tunnel. He had never in his life felt so alone.

 

October 17, 2013 Posted by | Short Stories | , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

First Impressions

She sat alone in the carriage as the train rolled onwards, eating the track, heading into the heart of the heartless city. The city that sprawled across England’s landscape like a tramp in a Saville Row suit: no matter how you dressed it up, it still stank of neglect underneath.

This wasn’t her city, this wasn’t her love. Her soul was pure Parisian but she was realistic enough to know that the two cities told a similar tale and were undeniably cut from the same cloth. The same, she supposed, as all big cities, everywhere.

She was here to study and, maybe, in another two years she’d want to stay, but for the moment she was still trying to find her feet. She missed home. The international students she’d met were okay, some better than others, but les anglais…they were as culturally alien to her as Martians. Their gruff voices always seeming to be shouting, the bland food…ah, but the list could stretch on. Such near neighbours yet so completely different.

She ignored the grey sky that matched the grey buildings outside the window next to her, her attention taken by the paperback she was reading. The Lover by Marguerite Duras; her favourite book and one that she had enjoyed three times before. Her passion was literature: reading and discussing books with her friends. Since she had been in this country she had not had a decent conversation about books. She was so far from home.

The train shuddered to a halt outside Wembley Stadium and suddenly the peace was shattered as the carriage suddenly filled with men. She scolded herself for not noticing there was a match on, a fact if known that would have changed her travel plans.

They were loud and boisterous, their language foul and littered with Anglo-Saxon swearwords, some of which she didn’t know the translated version of in French. It was obvious that their team had won, although what team it was she couldn’t be certain. There were no scarves or hats in their team colours. Their clothes were expensive with designer labels, the uniform of the English hooligan.

She would show no fear, she wouldn’t acknowledge their presence; her eyes glued to the book, she hoped they would just ignore her. The one who sat next to her was talking to his friends and paying her no heed. She’d barely glanced at him as he sat down but she’d taken in his close cropped hair and slightly off-centre nose. The only thing that identified him as human was the slight scent of Givenchy aftershave that caressed her more delicate nose.

After a while she became aware that the one next to her was staring down at her book. He was probably trying to figure out why the words weren’t familiar to him, yet even if it was written in English she doubted he’d be able to read it.

“What are you reading?” he asked. She resisted the urge to employ some old-fashioned English sarcasm by telling him it was called a book, best not to antagonise the ape. Instead she flashed the cover to him, not that it would make much difference. “I haven’t read that,” he admitted. No surprise there then. Hopefully that would be the end of the conversation.

“What’s your name?”

She wasn’t going to be let off that easily, but she was determined not to let him see she was intimidated by him. She lifted her chin proudly, “Ophelia.”

“Hamlet’s girlfriend?”

“You’ve read Hamlet?” She tried hard not to put too much emphasis on You’ve. Yet she couldn’t help being amazed that he knew that Ophelia was a character in Shakespeare’s play.

“Sure,” he replied, “he lost the plot and she topped herself.”

She turned to look at him properly for the first time. His nose, while quite clearly once broken, gave his face character. His smile was boyish and warm and his eyes were…were…so blue. She was intrigued, she was interested!

“So what is your name?” She asked, her hand involuntarily moving to touch her dark hair before she could stop it.

“Hamlet.”

His friends all laughed and, despite herself, she laughed too. Then the carriage was gone, his loud friends were gone, the soot-black tunnel outside was gone. There existed only his eyes, the subtle aroma of Givenchy that filled her senses and that moment.

The train slowed and heaved itself to a tired halt. The mob rose as one and shuffled through the doors as they slid open. He rose and followed. Then, turning at the door he smiled back at her and mouthed au revoir. The doors closed and he was gone. She sat alone. Ophelia stared at the space he had so recently vacated and whispered to herself “…and the rest is silence.”

October 15, 2013 Posted by | Short Stories | , , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Fright Night

Do you want to hear a scary story? Not just scary but true! Dare you read this while you are alone in the house?

I’ve always been a fan of the zombie genre. I’ve seen countless horror films but many of them have either made me laugh or have left me unmoved – which is worse?

Zombies push my button though, they always have. I maintain that there could be nothing worse than being eaten by something with blunt teeth! This is a little story about the first time I ever watched a zombie film and the terrifying aftermath in a graveyard.

Me and my mate Taff were probably about 14 or 15, we went down to the youth club in town, a bigger nest of ne’erdowells and apprentice hooligans you never did see. They were showing a film and we decided we would take a look having little better to do that evening. It was George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. You know the one where the news woman, her helicopter pilot boyfriend and two SWAT boys are holed up in a shopping mall while the apocalypse rages outside? It was the first time I saw anyone bitten by another (ex)human being and it shook me up, although you don’t dare admit it.

After the (very poor quality) video had run its course, we went outside and set off towards home. As if fate had decreed it the world had disappeared in the thickest pea-souper fog ever. Brilliant, just brilliant.

We walked through this white world as if cut off from reality, both of us probably scared from the film we just seen and the chances of a shambling undead predator emerging from the fog, hungry for our young flesh. I was hoping Taff was more scared than me. We talked about the film as we walked and how we would dispatch such a creature, not having access to guns. He said he’d head for the local army barracks. I thought that was a bad idea, even if they weren’t overrun, they’d probably be jumpy enough to pepper us as we approached. No, I’d head for Tamworth Castle – strong doors and thick walls atop a steep hill, the only approach forming a bottleneck that you could barricade easily and there were swords on display, just the thing for decapitating a zombie.

To get home I would have to pass a cemetery, I joked to Taff how I wasn’t looking forward to that. He offered to walk up as far as there and then double back to his own place. I argued that there was no need but I was glad when he insisted.

When we got there he said that he wasn’t scared and he would walk through the cemetery on his own but would I have the guts to do it too? Would I have the guts? I could do anything he could do, silently wishing he would shut up and just go home. The cemetery has a long spiked iron railing fence with two iron gates at either end, linked by a semi circular path that the hearses use. He would go through the first gate and walk slowly along the path and out the far gate, whereupon he would shout to let me know he was there and it was my turn.

He set off and was swallowed by the greedy fog within a second. I stood there on my own, a victim of sensory deprivation. I hoped the little shiver I felt run through me was from the cold and not a manifestation of the fear I was struggling to contain. A couple of minutes later I heard a shout, “Your turn!” I walked through the gate and set off, my boots sounding so loud as they crunched the gravel beneath them. My hands were flexing and unflexing, flexing and unflexing. This was a really stupid idea. A line from the film ran through my head: “When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.” I wished my boots weren’t making so much noise as my ears strained for the sound of a shuffling approach; my nose trying to detect the smell of decay; my eyes, nearly useless to me in this white world, looking for shadows that might suddenly loom out of the fog. Stupid, stupid. The dead can’t walk, they can’t rise from beyond the grave. Then… What is that? Something huge was emerging from the fog, and I do mean huge! Probably ten feet tall, arms outstretched, my God it…it’s got wings!!! The statue of the archangel made no move to grab me.

I tried to regain control of my breathing. My heart was hammering in my chest like the  kettle drums in the theme music to 2001: A Space Odyssey. It sounded loud in this world of nothing around me. I chuckled to myself as I continued on; stupid, stupid!

A bush next to the path just to my right rustled ever so slightly, I didn’t check my stride. It’s just a bird or a mouse or something, nothing to be scared of. There’s nothing that can hurt me here. The shadow that lurched out of the bush moved fast, this was no animal it was human and whoever it was moved way too fast for a zombie. I didn’t have time to call out for my mate before the wind was taken from my lungs by the force of the tackle. I was knocked off my feet and off the path onto the damp grass, my attacker landing on top of me. I struggled to push him off but he was strong I  could hear myself panting as I tried to get my breath back and tried to sweep him onto his back. I could hear him laughing: oh great, a bloody maniac!

This was it, the fight of my life had begun, I knew I was in a very bad position and if he had a knife, which I supected he had – tools of the trade for crazies – this visit to the graveyard might last a whole lot longer than I intended. I moved my hips to the side to try and sweep him again, grabbing the first thing I could get purchase on, it just happened to be his ear: “Owwww, let go Danny, that hurts!” Taff cried out trying to get back to his feet and stepping away from my kick that if it had connected would have ended any hope for having a family he might have entertained.

The sod had shouted to me to take my turn then ran back in through the gate and, keeping to the grass to hide his footfalls, he sat in the bush waiting for this sucker to walk past. He seemed to find it the funniest thing ever but I was yet to be convinced.

March 13, 2013 Posted by | Short Stories | , , , , , , | 12 Comments

The Match

Faces

He’d never felt so alive. His senses were sharper than they had ever been; the room was brighter than the dim lights in there should have allowed, colours so vivid; his ears were keen enough to pick up the slightest sound and separate it from the din around him. He could smell the heady mix of aftershave, stale cigarettes on clothes, beer spilt on the sticky, ugly patterned carpet beneath his feet, sweat battling deodorant; he could smell excitement. He could feel the cold moisture on the outside of the pint glass nestled in his hand; he could feel the electricity that charged the air in this place. Tonight was different.

It was, these days, a rare opportunity for his team to play the team from across the city. They weren’t in the same league, in so many ways. Tonight was a cup match and they had been drawn together. A chance to renew a rivalry more than a century old.

They were only a couple of miles across the city, but when the wind was right you could smell them. They were different: they dressed differently, preferring cheap sportswear to the designer labels that he could pick out amongst the men around him. They spoke differently, an outsider would never be able to pick up the ever so subtle difference in the accent, but they knew and that was all that mattered.

The word was that they had boasted that they would take this pub, this fortress. They could try. Plans had been made: when they hit the front the lads would pile over the side fence from the beer garden and turn their flank.

Spotters were out in every direction, young kids with mobile phones, watching the streets. There was no way the pub could be approached without being seen and their movement reported.

He looked at the faces around him. Not a bad turn out, but that was to be expected. Nobody would want to miss this one. Some of the older boys carried scars from previous battles, each one telling a story. Younger lads, fresh-faced and eager to make a name for themselves. What would take place tonight would make them; a battle honour and an “I was there” moment.

People were checking their watches, not long now until kick-off, where were they? Him and his mates were what you might call mid-level. They had long since cut their teeth but they were not hard core. Some of the lads in this place considered fighting at football matches a profession. His mates weren’t like that; they had never and would never shy away from the action when it started but never went looking for it, they had nothing to prove. They were there for the game not the warm-up; the game was all that mattered. Football was the only drug they ever needed.

Tonight was different. Everyone would have to walk to the ground together; out there, tonight, it was bandit country, small groups could easily get picked off. The animals from across the city had no idea of etiquette, the unwritten rule that non-combatants should be left alone. They hunted in packs like hyenas: cowardly yet merciless.

The movement might have gone unnoticed to the casual observer. The man nearest the door wordlessly turned. He was the one who decided for them all. Like a flock of birds or a shoal of fish, they all moved to follow. No need for shouted orders, they filed out and within sixty seconds the pub stood empty and silent save for the staff breathing sighs of relief.

The Beast

The mass of bodies moved across the car park. No longer groups of individuals from various estates and satellite towns, they were now a “firm”. No call had come, where were they? Someone attempted to get a song going but was hushed by others around him. No singing, don’t give the Old Bill an excuse.

The police followed them like pilot fish following a shark. They were as excited as the people they were tailing. They wanted there to be trouble, they wanted an excuse to unleash brutality yet not have to face consequences. Tonight was going to be special.

The firm numbered around 200: warriors all. There was no point turning up if you were going to run. It would be remembered, you would be tainted by it forever. As he walked with the group, with his friends, he could feel a bond. It felt to him like all these hearts started to synchronise and beat as one. All these bodies merged to become one entity, one beast.

They passed the police station, more Old Bill were outside, some with dogs. Ahead of them at the junction the cavalry waited: mounted police with their long, vicious batons. Above them a helicopter hovered, buzzing like an angry wasp, the searchlight picking them out.

The firm reached the turn and headed right, the only sound they made was their many footfalls. Then someone just in front of him started to curse, lamenting miserably the absence of opposition. He fell quiet again and they marched on in silence.

Suddenly a shout: “They’re here!” The march halted, everyone looking to their left. The others from across the city had been clever; they knew that the approaches to the pub would be watched. They knew that all the main roads and the railway station were under observation. They had come the back way through the estates, quiet streets, a roundabout route that would have taken them so much longer to traverse yet one through which they remained unobserved. Now they attacked.

The plan would have been perfect if they hadn’t needed to charge from so far away, the road was wide and the houses on that side set back from the road. The firm had plenty of time to react and reset. The top lads from the front moved to the centre and waited. They watched as those from across the city charged down the grassy slope towards them. There were far more attending this party than they expected, how did they put together this crew? There seemed to be hundreds of them, a never ending stream of them piling out from the housing estate opposite. The firm were well outnumbered but there was no turning back now. The screaming horde charged and the firm stood their ground; some of them bouncing on their toes, fists clenched; others moving slowly forward muttering curses.

Battle Joined

The police between the fast converging sides fled in panic, they were caught off-guard. He looked at one of his friends next to him in those last few seconds and they grinned at each other manically. He could feel the beat of the beast’s heart racing now, pounding a deafening rhythm, until he realised that it was just the thud of his own pulse he could feel. Closer they came, howling their war cry. He tensed: every muscle, every sinew taut. With a rush the tidal wave crashed against the levee. The levee held.

The war cry had stopped; there were no shouts or screams, just slaps and thuds as fists and feet made contact with flesh and bone. Men were grunting as they struggled with each other. He found himself in the thick of this danse macabre. The adrenalin rush was like nothing he had ever experienced and he revelled in the exhilaration. He heard someone somewhere laughing, he looked around, wondering who could be that insane to be able to find such mirth, before realising that it was he himself who was laughing.

The battle had split into two distinct sectors now. Many of them from across the city had expected to win with the initial charge, believing it to be irresistible from sheer weight of numbers. When the line held and then pushed back they became disheartened and started to take backward steps, they were breaking. Others still stood and fought, this caused a division, some of the firm pushing them further up the road; others still stood battling it out with their more determined foe.

He looked back as he moved with the first group, he saw one of his friends who had got separated and was in danger of being surrounded. He ran as fast as he could, bursting through the closing ranks he grabbed the lapel of his friend’s jacket. He pulled him away, swinging a fist at the nearest head, not knowing or caring to whom it belonged. This smaller melee broke up as the battle moved up the road. His friend was laughing, “Cheers mate, I was in trouble there.” He smiled back at his friend and replied, “I was saving them, I thought you might hurt someone.” They both laughed and jogged to catch up with the others.

By the church wall the enemy had turned and stood. The battle re-joined with relish. The two sides clashed again, but many of the other side had not stopped running so by now the numbers were more even.

The police had regrouped on the outskirts of this fighting throng and were now eager to join the fray. They sent in the horses who charged into the mass of bodies snorting, the mounted coppers were swinging left and right, batons cutting through the air, loud cracks heard above the noise of the battle as the wooden batons met skulls. He turned to see a huge horse just a few feet behind them, at full gallop, and pulled his friend back to flatten themselves against the wall. Not a moment too soon, the horse and rider’s leg missing them by a hair’s breadth. His friend turned to him wide-eyed and breathing heavily, “That’s twice you saved me tonight.”

The cavalry shouldn’t have gone in alone as one after another they were pulled from their mounts and disappeared beneath this boiling sea of bodies. The beast rolled on over them, leaving them lying on the ground, the horses stood riderless and confused.

Eventually the enemy could take no more; they broke and ran down the street beside the gigantic stadium. Many still gave chase but enough was enough. A point had been proven and he and his mates had reached the ground safely. It was time to go inside; the Old Bill were getting a bit nasty now, they didn’t take too kindly to having their boys battered; they were out for revenge and to restore the status quo. Stragglers getting dragged into the vans and beaten.

Our End

They filed in, taking up position in the bottom right hand corner of the huge terrace. Packed in tight; a buzz of anticipation. The crowd moving, swaying in waves from top to bottom and back.

His friends still on a high from the action they had just took part in. There was nothing, NOTHING on earth to match this feeling. Nothing could touch it, nothing could touch them, they were invincible. All of them breathing heavy, stood on wobbly legs, not even noticing the tremors in their hands; basking in the afterglow.

He felt it rather than saw it, but he knew there was something wrong. He stopped listening to the excited jabbering voices and tried to concentrate. What was bothering him? He looked all around him, a slight itch at the back of his brain, a small voice talking to him, whispering – there was danger here. He couldn’t quite work out what was bothering him but he could feel himself tightening up inside.

He saw the side of a face in front of him, there was a tension in it that didn’t belong; a slight tic in the corner of this stranger’s eye. The man turned; in fact about 50 men turned at the same time and started yelling an all too familiar war cry. It was happening in front of him, the nearest one of the enemy was less than an arm’s length away. He could smell the enemy’s breath.

He tried to take a step back but as he did he was hit from behind and carried forward as, it seemed, the whole of the terrace poured down. They shouldn’t be here, they can’t be here. This was our ground, our terrace – this was our end. He was thrust into the middle of them from across the city by the sheer weight of those behind him. He had no option, he had to fight for his life because if he fell he would be trampled and crushed.

He fought; he fought with everything he had. His hands lashed out as others tried to lash out at him. He felt punches land but in this seething cauldron accuracy was not a consideration. The enemy were pushed back and began piling over the advertising hoardings onto the edge of the pitch. The fans in other stands in the stadium had realised what was going on and were screaming at their allies to exact revenge on these interlopers.

The battle raged on until eventually only a few of the enemy were left on the front of the terrace. The police and stewards trying desperately to pull them out as blows rained down on them; the rest being ushered out and taken to their own end.

The situation was calmed. Energy was sapping away as the second, and unexpected adrenaline surge slowed and stopped. He inspected his clothes to make sure there wasn’t any damage and felt a tender spot on his ribcage, there would be a nice bruise there tomorrow. One of his mates was chattering and giggling like a kid, “How could they be that stupid to try and take our end?” A reply escaped him and all he could do was grin. The players were trooping out onto the pitch to the sound of “we will rock you.” The match was about to begin.

The Match

We won…

October 16, 2012 Posted by | Short Stories | , , , , , | 10 Comments

   

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