Author Archives: RuddersWriting

Two Different Specimens – ‘Rat Tales’ short story

Two Different Specimens

rat1RS2179 had been given its final injection. Perhaps this would be the one to bring it the peace it craved. It hoped so.

It was a cold and clinical reference for a living creature. That was the intention – experience had shown such impersonal referencing to be an effective means of helping insulate the laboratory staff from any guilt. Many a brutal dictator had used similar victim classification systems as part of their extermination processes, mainly when they were short on the sort of person who enjoyed such work.

The tiny creature was number two thousand, one hundred and seventy-nine in the extensive list of rat specimens used in the secret 101 faculty’s nasty experiments. ‘Secret’ was a good description of the place in more ways than one. It was not listed in any public domain. It was purposely hidden away from peer scrutiny, its very existence kept secret from all but the shadowy upper echelons of its parent company. Given what went on there, it was as much a dirty little secret as it was a location.

The little creature sensed it was coming to the end of its relatively short existence. But that was okay. It had not been a good life and RS2179 would be glad to see it over. From the moment of RS2179’s birth, the only world it had ever known was the chilly sterile one of the laboratory it had been allocated to. It was never to experience the feel of grass under its feet. The joy of finding some tasty morsel for its next meal was unknown to it. All it knew was the hard-smooth Perspex floor and the dry and tasteless mixture the white-coated laboratory technicians would leave in a tiny bowl at the end of its foot-long cage. The only sounds it heard were the deep thunderous voices of the two-legged giants and the hum of the air conditioning unit that kept the experimental environment at a distressingly low temperature. The lack of any other external stimuli seemed to amplify whatever distress the lifeless prison inflicted on those creatures unfortunate to find themselves there.

Within hours of RS2179’s arrival a few months before, the experiments had begun. It was a rare day when it hadn’t been roughly manhandled from its cage for some new horror at the sharp end of the shiny spikes they would plunge into its body. It had tried struggling and even biting its handlers, but the clothing they wore was too thick to penetrate. The shiny spikes though, they were razor sharp, far more so than its own teeth. And oh, how they hurt. It was a blessing when the rat would sometimes be sent into sleeping darkness less than a minute after one of them pierced its skin. Each time it had hoped not to awaken, only to face disappointment when consciousness returned.

Depositphotos_10948446_dsThe last few times that had been the worse. Usually, the skin piercing spikes would be stabbed into some rear part of its body. The latest ones though had been directed towards the areas around its forehead. For some reason, it wasn’t so frightening when the entry point was out of sight, but seeing the sharp, gleaming tip coming into focus distressed RS2179 so much more.

Unbeknown to RS2179, the laboratory staff had been pumping all sorts of cognitive enhancers into its brain, And, equally unbeknown to the laboratory staff, they were working immeasurably better than their maze running tests would suggest. The microscopic chemical and electrical information exchanges between the synapses were now jumping across time and space, reaching farther out with each new injection.

For now, that wasn’t much of a consolation to RS2179. Its use was at an end other than what details might be gleaned from a post-mortem of their effects on its general physiology. That would have been fine were the rat actually dead.

Just as lethal injections were far from being a failsafe procedure with humans, they were even less so with rats. There had been no check on the complete absence of brain activity in the rat, just a rudimentary investigation of its heartbeat and non-response to being gently stabbed at with a pencil. Most of the life had indeed slipped from its body, but deep inside the rat’s brain and mind there was still a dying flicker of life, enough to make it aware of everything going on. It had been robbed of its ability to struggle or resist but sadly, not its feeling and consciousness. It was aware of being lifted and placed in the dissecting tray. Then the cold feel of the Nitrile gloved fingers moving about its body, poking and pulling, feeling about its abdomen and head, contorting its limbs into unnatural positions.

Its enhanced awareness helped limit the confusion and emotional distress it might otherwise have felt, but it was a double-edged sword – it now had a rudimentary understanding of the various instruments it could see in its limited field of vision, and even some of the human sounds they were making. Glad though it was, knowing it would soon be dead, the suffering it was likely to endure beforehand was ample reason to be afraid.

dissecting_tools“I’m ready to proceed,” Lance Nelson told his colleagues. They had already prepared the equipment he would need: a dissecting tray and board, scissors, a scalpel, a variety of probes, and several pins.

RS2179 was again manhandled from the dissecting tray to being placed on its back on a wooden board. Its limbs were stretched out in a spread-eagled position and pins inserted, one through the palms of each of its tiny feet, and three more along its tail. The pins were super sharp and thin, and so the pain of their entry was quite momentary. Still, the rat wished for the darkness and death to overcome it, watching the white-coated two-legged giant reach for a scalpel. Lance hesitated for a moment, imagining he saw a flicker of recognition in the creature’s eyes. He dismissed it as a trick of the light and proceeded to cut along the surface skin and tissue of the abdomen. No sound emerged from its mouth, but inside its head, RS2179 was screaming, its short-lived enhanced awareness now given over to overwhelming fear and blind panic. Another perpendicular slice of the scalpel, this time a fraction deeper, sent its pain receptors into over-drive, flooding its mind with sensations no creature, sentient or otherwise should ever have to purposely endure. A probe was used to prod at its internal organs, moving them this way and that to check for inflammation and discolouring …

“Everything looks normal. Respiratory, heart and other organs all look intact. Now moving onto the muscle and fatty tissues,” the voice was saying. RS2179 didn’t understand the words but realised what was about to happen, watching the scalpel move towards one of its limbs. It was all too much for the suffering creature to willingly endure. Its mind was beginning to shut down, severing itself from the torrent of impulses attacking its pain receptors. The pain was still unimaginable, but it was mostly starting to subside. The end was mercifully close, but there was one more ordeal to come, and the worst.

The scalpel disappeared out of sight. The suffering creature soon became aware of its new location though when it felt the pain inflicting instrument slicing through the back of its skull. Its mind filled with an explosion of light and colour as its brain was literally cut in two. Such trauma came as a blessing. There was no more pain, just the dying of its brain cells and the last remnants of its tortured mind. The last flicker of life passed into darkness.

“Nothing much to be learnt here,” Lance said, “might as well clean up. Dispose of it will you?”

*

Three months later

Lance Nelson felt a buzzing about his head as he got into the car. He wasn’t particularly alarmed by it. There was all manner of wildlife about given the proximity to the nearby extensive forest. The high walls and other barriers kept most of it at bay, but even the faculty’s state of the art security and remote location wasn’t going to keep out the bugs and insects.

TLS1, the first two-legs human specimen of its kind was laid out on the rocky surface of the cave floor. It had amused the rats to choose a classification mocking that of their human counterparts.

TLS1’s mind was now stirring as it returned to consciousness. The first things it saw and felt were the various insects and spiders crawling about its body, biting, and feeding off him – it was a far cry from the clean and gleaming sterile environment of the lab but more than adequate to serve the same purpose. The human specimen was in pain too. That was the first realisation that everything about him was horribly real and not the nightmare he had thought, and indeed hoped it might be. There was a thumping in his head, worse than any hangover he’d ever had, and he was sure of a couple of cracked ribs too. He could just about roll his eyes to look down and along his body; he was bruised and scratched. Another worry was being naked as he was. How had that come about? Had he been kidnapped? Something to do with his work at the lab he speculated. His mind began to clear. He could see rats, lots of them darting back and forth, just out of reach had he indeed been able to move.

Those same creatures he had once experimented on and cut into pieces now inspired in him the same sort of fear they must have felt.

He was briefly reminded of George Orwell’s novel, 1984, and the Room 101 scene where people would be confronted with their own worst fears. The central character’s overwhelming fear had been rats. It dawned on him why the research centre where he worked was often referred to as the 101 Faculty. Someone’s idea of a sick joke?  Whatever the reasoning, it was hardly amusing given his present circumstances.

The insects and other crawling things were minute in comparison, and so the rats were content to allow them some tiny share of their spoils. It would have been ungracious not to, especially given the help they had been in delivering the specimen – rats weren’t the only creatures being experimented on in that place.

Lance wanted to scream, to struggle, to swat and brush them away just like he would if seeing a fly or a spider buzzing or crawling about his home. None of that was an option now. Not a sound escaped his lips, and except for the occasional involuntary shudder, his body made no response to any mental commands to move. He tried thinking back on how it came to be there. The last thing TLS1 remembered was getting into his car. Something had stung or bitten him. It hadn’t been painful, but enough to get his attention. He remembered thinking at the time of being glad he hadn’t been driving and paid it no consideration other than to reopen his car door to shoo whatever it was out of the car. After that he’d set off for home, confident that whatever it was had flown off into the night air. And then … nothing.

Like those laboratory victims, this human one had also been rendered incapable of movement or resistance, though not by the same means. The rats had no access to or even the means or understanding yet to administer muscle relaxants or anaesthetising drugs, not that it mattered. They would not have been inclined to using them regardless if they had. They had other means for now, albeit cruder and somewhat less ‘humane.’

While still unconscious, several of the rats had nibbled deep into TLS1’s naked flesh, not to feed but merely sever vital nerves, paralysing its movement. It was unfortunate for the specimen they hadn’t miscalculated and severed more vital ones, either killing or at least neutralising its pain carrying nerve endings too. They had done neither. The specimen remained conscious and aware of the slightest touch to its skin, right up to the gentle breeze of a nearby mosquito fluttering its wings.

The rats’ purpose in bringing the specimen there was two-fold. Firstly, they wanted to know just how much tissue loss and damage a human could sustain before death quickly followed, and anything else they could learn. The other reason was a more basic one – revenge; they not only knew of RS2179’s ordeal before it died, but they had also felt it too, living every moment of their little cousin’s pain and fear, powerless to help. Their minds had been connected, and along with all the pain they had shared, they had also taken on its cognitive enhancements and had their own synapses super-charged. The new-found intelligence it gave them was as much a curse as it was a gift, or so it seemed at the time. It was an experience that would stay with the thousand plus numbered mischief of rats for as long as they lived. It seemed only fair to share that experience with their current specimen …

A lone rat, the dominant one of the mischief, crawled up onto its abdomen. It started to nibble away just above the belly button. Its teeth and claws were more than sufficient to tear away a few inches of skin and subcutaneous tissue beneath. More of them approached, hesitantly at first. The dominant looked round to them with a nod of acknowledgement. After that, they approached more confidently. The specimen silently shrieked as one it hadn’t seen started to crawl up the back of its head and over the face. Claws scraped along its eyes. It tried to close them, the eyelids being the only part of its body other than the eyes themselves that still responded. It was no use. Another rat had joined it, using its claws to pull back the other eyelid while a third used its teeth to literally slice at the eyeball itself. There are no words to adequately describe the sense of panic and revulsion going through the specimen’s mind at that moment. And that was just the beginning … it was about to get worse … much worse.

Depositphotos_8609426_dsThe slow and meticulous way the rats tore away at the flesh and internal organs had been calculated to cause the most amount of pain for the maximum amount of time. All the time the specimen clung to life, its blood remained warm and tastier to its insect and arachnid feeders. The rats too were feeding off the extremities, but only in small tiny rat-sized bites. They paid particular attention to its genital area, knowing from its mind the additional psychological impact of that.

*

The rats learnt a lot from TLS1: rates of blood loss, pain tolerances, and even some insight into the working of its mind from their synaptic connection – that last aspect hadn’t been as intense or well-defined as with their little cousin, RS2179, but enough for them all to revel in the hated two-legs’ suffering.

Despite their giant size and, for now, superior intelligence, the two-legs were not so nearly adept at coping with the sort of procedures the rats and other creatures had had to contend with for as long as any of them could remember. The two-legs feared death and would fight its inevitability in any way they could.

They would need more such specimens, different ages, sexes, and the like if they were to learn more. They would also need a more efficient means of getting them too; relying on their insect allies stinging them into darkness was not ideal. The one they had just dissected might well have died in the car crash, and it had been no easy task dragging its body back to their underground cave. As it was, it was already bruised and damaged when they got it. The rats still had much to learn in trapping live prey like the two-legs did, but they would learn from them, adapting their methods to suit their own smaller size and different skill sets.

Still, there remained over a hundred more of the two-legs working at the 101 faculty. There would be plenty of time and opportunity for the rats to improve their skills.

rat2Lance Nelson had taken three days to die. It was a death no creature, sentient or otherwise should ever deliberately have to suffer.

That rats had thought otherwise. Not bad for a first specimen, they congratulated themselves. They could, and would do better … Next time.

***

If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more rat-related tales, they can all be found in Book One of my Creature Tales collection …

Click title below for universal amazon link …

Rat Tales: A Mischief of Little horrors

A0

 

Book Review – Hell’s Beginning

JohnTM5

 

John T.M. Herres is a fiction writer and in his own words … 

JohnTM4‘ … A creator of larger-than-life heroes of ages gone by;
Great wizards tainted, and those who resist them;

War between interstellar travellers, both on this planet and far away;
Alien races intent on the annihilation of any being not their own,
and weaker ones in need of a saviour- as well as the One who becomes their saviour.

Clashes with bad people and dangerous places, where only one can survive …’

When you get to my writing, sit back, hold on, and enjoy the ride!

In addition to this, his first full-length thriller, John T.M. Herres has had many of his short stories featured in numerous multi-author anthologies, details of which can be found via his Amazon author page featured at the end of this blog post.

***

Hell’s Beginning

5starssgs (1)

Brutal & sadistic – A great story but definitely not for the squeamish!!!

JohnTM5a

 

Hard and extreme don’t even begin to describe this novel. Let me say from the start, this isn’t a book for the squeamish; the violence is brutal, explicit, and sadistic. For those that prefer their blood and gore left to the imagination, this probably isn’t the book for them, but otherwise, it’s as blood and gore filled as any horror fan could ever want or hope for.

 

A chance encounter and unthinking comment in a bar lead to a woman’s death, followed by several others, innocent people who just happen to get caught up in the madman’s psychopathic killing spree. As a big and powerful man, the killer’s victims rarely give him any trouble, though obviously, some do try to fight back. It’s this ‘fighting back’ that initially suggests someone might indeed have succeeded in putting an end to the killer, only for the author to spring an unexpected and diabolical twist into the story that ensures the slaughter continues. 

The main protagonist is as thoroughly vile and nasty as you could ever want or expect in a serial killer, sadistic to the extreme, and his contempt for women equally so. As a character, he’s absolutely loathsome, and yet, perfectly suited to the story.  

Although horribly graphic at times, the writing and dialogue are convincing, and the story moves forward at breakneck speed. I liked too the author’s clever use of perspective, alternating between a third person view of the unfolding story, and then retelling it from the killer’s perspective.

The degree of torture and mutilation here isn’t the level I would normally seek out in a book, but I found it to be in context and appropriate to the killer’s character rather than merely gratuitous. Nonetheless, this is a graphically violent story that won’t appeal to everyone, but those who enjoy some graphic torture and mutilation in their reading will find it in abundance here, and more importantly, aligned to a well-crafted story. Well worth a look for fans of the more extreme end of the horror spectrum.

***

For John T. M. Herres’s social media links, click below …

Twitter: @iamyeehaw

Facebook: @AuthorJohnTMHerres

Goodreads: @JohnT.M.Herres

Bookbub: @JohnTMHerres

Blog: www.johntmherres.com

&

Click HERE for the author’s Amazon author page …

JohnTM3

Book Review – Embrace The Darkness

PJ2

pj3Peter lives with his wife and four children in a small town in Sussex, England. As well as being a keen cook and wine enthusiast, Peter has been writing poetry and short stories for almost twenty years. It had always been an ambition to complete a novel and, after the success of his debut, The Broken Doll, it has been fantastic to have the opportunity to turn a hobby into a new career. Since the release of The Broken Doll in February 2017, Peter has released the follow-up novel, Shattered Pieces, as well as three collections of short horror stories, and a children’s book. Peter has had work published in a number of anthologies, is the Editor-in-Chief of Indie Writers Review, and is the co-founder of Red Cape Publishing.

***

Embrace The Darkness

5starssgs (1)

Dark, full of suspense, and highly original … a great collection of little horrors!

PJ5

 

I’d seen a few reviews of this author’s work, and a couple of mentions on the social media horror circuit so thought I’d give him a try. From the very first story, I knew I was in for a dark treat with the other five stories. Most follow the traditional ‘twist in the tale’ format, but really, they’re more like deadly stings from a scorpion tail … don’t be expecting any nice ‘happy ever after’ endings here!

I loved the dark originality and diversity of all these stories; they do draw on some traditional horror themes such as witchcraft, medical horror, and dreamlike states for their subject matter but were nonetheless, unlike most others I’ve ever read. Although quite brutal and horrific at times, the author manages to create such horror without the need to resort to excessive blood and gore, relying more on suspense and atmosphere. Will definitely be reading/reviewing more of this author’s work in the future … a well-deserved 5-stars!

***

P.J. Blakey-Novis’s social media … 

Website: www.redcapepublishing.com

Twitter:  @pjbn_author

Facebook: @pjbnauthor

Email:   –   pjblakey-novis@outlook.com

&

Click HERE for the author’s full catalogue of work & Amazon author page …

pj4

Book Review – The Lafayette Campaign

This is an author I first came across by way of reading his own excellent review of a book I had previously reviewed, ‘Johnny Nothing’ by Ian Probert.

Andy2Andrew Updegrove is a prolific blogger, primarily writing about the self-publishing industry, marketing, and related topics, providing an excellent resource for any aspiring writer. As well as being a prolific blogger and writer, Andrew Updegrove has a successful background in law, business, and cybersecurity, making him eminently qualified to write this excellent book.’

Further links and contact details for Andrew Updegrove are:

Blog: http://updegrove.wordpress.com/

email: andrew.updegrove@gesmer.com

Twitter: @Adversego

Author site: www.andrew-updegrove.com

***  

Andy4

 

The Lafayette Campaign

A TALE OF DECEPTION AND ELECTIONS
5starssgs (1)

A brilliant and cleverly funny political satire, a sort ‘House of Cards,’ but better.

Having already read an enjoyed the first in Andrew Updegrove’s cybersecurity/thriller series, I thought I’d give this one a try. This time the story revolves around an upcoming US Presidential election, but one where all the poll predictions are completely at odds with what everyone expects, raising questions about who may be trying to manipulate and influence the outcome? Once again, the US authorities call on the geeky middle-aged, I.T. cybersecurity expert, Frank Adversego, to look into things. Amid his investigations, Frank is also working on the book he’s been contracted to write warning of the dangers around hacking, cybersecurity, and so. 

As in Book One, this is a superbly written cybersecurity themed thriller, but again, riddled with lots of clever and subtle humour, like where the author refers to a security thug as being ‘evolutionally challenged,’ and when he laments about being glad he’s not writing a  political satire instead of a serious non-fiction book, the humour of which becomes even more apparent later on. In many ways, readers from any country will be able to identify with the part money and big business plays in politics all around the world, and not just the US. 

Although this reads perfectly well as a stand-alone book, I was pleased to see some indirect references to Book One, The Alexandria Project, ironically the basis of the book the main character, Frank, is working on during the unfolding story here, and the inclusion of some of the characters from the first book, ie, his daughter, Marla, and boss, George Marchand. Again though, there are plenty of new characters to further engage the reader’s interest. 

Not only is this well-written book, but also a well-researched one too. It does, however, convey a lot of US political workings and cyber-tech explanation though that some readers might get a tad lost in if they don’t already have some interest in them. As a UK reader, I must admit had I read this book when it first came out back in 2015, I might well have got a bit lost in some of the American election procedures and terminology, and quite frankly, found it a little too fantastical and far-fetched. Since then of course, there’s been the improbable election of Donald Trump and all that’s followed to take care of the ‘far-fetched,’ aspect. Also, with all the media coverage that event attracted worldwide combined with innumerable hours of Youtube American news footage of the 2016 US Presidential election, most people now have a better understanding of US electoral workings, so again, this really has become a book that is not only more ‘understandable’ to non-US readers, but a highly topical one too. 

Another super cybersecurity offering; a satire for sure, but given what’s happened in US politics since its publication, really not so far off the mark … loved it!

***

Click HERE to read my review of Book One in the series, The Alexandria Project

***

iasdpic1Available from Amazon in eBook format, and from several other outlets in both eBook and print formats … See the author’s blog for details.

For links to all five books to date in the author’s cybersecurity/thriller series, please see HERE for Andrew Updegrove’s US Amazon author page

Andy

What are the odds on that? – Flash Fiction short story

highway1

What are the odds on that?

highway2 Howard Jackson was a careful man. He had to be to have gotten away with his twenty-seven murders to date. Today he was hoping to add number twenty-eight to the tally. The young man sitting alone at the table in the service station diner looked a promising candidate. Howard estimated him to be in his late teens, or at most, his early twenties. He doubted if the young man had enough money for another coffee, having watched him nurse the one he had for over an hour. It wouldn’t be long before one of the staff insisted he buys another or be on his way. With the rain now pelting down outside, Howard was optimistic, knowing the weary hitch-hiker wouldn’t relish the prospect of walking however far to the next rest-stop. He had a knack for spotting the most vulnerable and trusting ones.

 

“Another coffee or something? Howard asked, having strolled over to the young man.

“They’ll be asking you to leave otherwise,” he added by way of reassurance.

“Uh? Oh right. Yeah, thanks, mister.” This was going to be so easy, Howard thought to himself.

“So, how far you going? I’m driving south if that’s any help?”

“Yeah, sure would be … and thanks for the coffee too. I was dreading having to start walking in this weather to wherever the next truck-stop is.”

Howard and the young man drank up and made their way to Howard’s car in the customer parking lot.

“Grab yourself a candy bar or a soda from the glove compartment if you want?”

“A soda would be good. And you? You having one too?”

“Nah, I’m good thanks, I had enough in the diner.”

highway3With the rain at full pelt, Howard was driving slower than he usually would. The young man continued to sip at his soda. An hour into the journey, the young man looked like he was nodding off. Howard pulled into a layby, confident the sedative had done its job.

Howard had long since discovered strangers were more ready to accept food and drink from a stranger in their car if it was in a sealed container or wrapper like a soda can or candy bar. The screw cap soda cans were of his own design, practically indistinguishable from the real thing, and the candy bars had each been injected with a liberal dose of etorphine, a powerful animal tranquiliser. Administering it via a soda or candy bar reduced the speed with which it took effect, but it was a safer alternative to risking the recipient putting up a fight if Howard failed to inject the drug at the first attempt. Howard hadn’t forgotten the one that got away, his only failure some six years previous when the sixteen-year-old intended victim hadn’t accepted either the soda or a candy bar and escaped after managing to block the etorphine-filled syringe with his rucksack. From that day on, Howard made it a rule not to proceed if the victim didn’t accept one of the drug-filled sodas or candy bars.

With his intended victim seemingly fast asleep, Howard got out of his car to retrieve certain items from the trunk: a length of rope chord, some industrial strength duct-tape, and a surgical scalpel. As expected, the young man still appeared completely out of it – Etorphine was a thousand times more potent than even morphine. With that in mind, Howard felt quite confident it was safe to proceed. He intended to strip his victim naked, and then use the rope and duct-tape to fully restrain and gag him. And then there would be Howard’s favourite part, a brutal assault and mutilation of the vilest kind of the victim’s lifeless body. First though, he reached down to begin unbuckling the young man’s jeans. What followed was most definitely not part of the plan that had succeeded on 27 previous occasions …

 

highway4“Not this time, mother fucker!” the young man said, ramming a solid uppercut under Howard’s chin before dragging him out through the adjacent car door. Though not as effective as Howard’s etorphine-filled soda can, not that the young man had actually drunk any of it, the upper-cut had highway5stunned his would-be killer sufficiently for the young man to quickly bind and gag the weaker and older Howard with the minimum of fuss or resistance. Oddly, the tone of his voice wasn’t loud, angry, or the outraged sort you might expect from someone unexpectedly finding themselves in that situation. If anything, it was eerily calm and controlled, much like the way he went about slitting Howard’s throat before dumping his body in the trunk of the would-be killer’s own car, sending both to a watery grave several hours’ drive later.

*

Oh, he’d been careful alright, but just a little too careful this time … it never occurred to Howard that someone else might have similar thoughts on their mind, and the same obsession with not getting caught. After all, what were the odds of a highway-driving serial killer picking up his opposite number among the waifs and strays of the hitch-hikers?

highway6The twenty-two-year-old young man had been killing the likes of Howard along the highway from the age of seventeen, barely a year after hitching his first ride at the tender age of sixteen. It was Howard’s attempt at adding the young man to his tally of victims six years before that had set the young hitch-hiker on his path of seeking out and slaughtering men like Howard … Howard’s fate had been sealed the moment he’d been recognised in the diner … by the one that got away.

***

For more stories like this and a whole host of other genres besides, stay tuned for … Flashbulb Moments, scheduled for late 2019 …

BookAdd9g

 

Battery Bob … Short story

Another taster story from my upcoming Canine Tales, Book Two in the Creature Tales collection. As can probably be assumed from the cover, many of the stories sit firmly in the blood and gore horror category, but sitting alongside them are several softer and more heart-warming ones. This is one such story …

 

Battery Bob

3D2Billy Marston had been a butcher’s boy before volunteering for France. At only 15 yrs. old, he’d lied about his age to join up, not that the recruiting sergeants inquired too closely when they suspected something amiss about a barely five ft tall youth claiming to be 17. They would inwardly smile at the would-be recruit’s naivety at thinking they had fooled anyone yet admiring their decision to try. It was just the sort of courage that would be needed for what was facing them

Billy wasn’t alone in doing that, so eager were most young men at the time wanting to go fight and for their country. But then, the real fighting had barely started yet, they still had no idea; everyone thought it would all soon be over and they’d be home in time for Christmas.

After a mere twelve weeks’ training in some god-awful cold army camp along the South coast, Billy was passed out as ready and fit for action, a junior Gunner and assigned to an artillery battery.

Mum and dad, his little sister, Ruby, and the family dog, Bobtail, were all there to see him off for his journey to France.

Although the family dog, everyone knew Bobtail was really Billy’s dog. The two had been inseparable before Billy had gone away for his basic training. In fact, Billy’s mum and dad had joked he’d miss that bloody dog more than them.

Whether that was true or not, the little terrier had whined and moped around the whole time Billy had been away and seeing him once more was the first time since the little dog appeared happy. The truth was, Bobtail had no intention of being separated again from the boy who had raised and loved him from the first day he had opened his eyes as a tiny hand-sized puppy.

 

“Hey, boy, be home before y’know it, Bobtail,” Billy was telling the dog, stooping down on one knee to clasp his arms about him in one last hug before boarding the troop ship. Bobtail was licking at the boy’s face and hands, furiously wagging its tail just like he used to as an excited puppy before reluctantly having to give up his attentions as Billy rose to his feet.

Like countless other parents that day, Billy’s mum and dad watched tearfully as their young son, still more boy than man, proudly marched across the gangplank with the last of his comrades to board the troop ship bound for the war in Europe.

Billy’s parents weren’t the only ones with tear-filled eyes. Bobtail too watched anxiously, seeing the figure of his beloved master disappearing from sight. He’d already spent twelve long weeks absent the boy’s loving hugs and playful belly rubs, determined not to be so any longer…

A sudden and unexpected pull of the leash that Billy’s little sister was holding him by saw the dog break free. Cheering roars of approval accompanied Bobtail’s mad dash across the gangplank just moments before it was pulled away for the ship to set sail.

There was no way the captain or anyone else was going to delay the troop ship’s sailing while they searched it just to return one little dog. For better or worse, master and dog were both now bound for France …

 

“Well, Gunner Marston, this is a fine fucking mess, ain’t it boy?” the young soldier’s sergeant was bellowing at him, trying to mask his amusement with his sternest face and tone. Billy stood fixed to the spot, sure that he was more afraid of his sergeant than he would ever be of the whole German army.

Bobtail stood beside his master as if to attention too, his sorry ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ soulful brown eyes looking up at the human making all the noise. Despite the shouting, Bobtail could see kindness in the human’s eyes, sensing this was a good human beneath the stern exterior.

Sgt. Rickman looked down at the dog, their eyes meeting. He also had a dog back home and understood the bond that existed between Billy and the sorry looking dog looking back up at him. Still, he had to at least make some show of punishing the young gunner for the dog’s presence aboard the ship …

“Well, Marston, if you think the ship’s crew are gonna look after yer pet mutt y’can think again, laddy!” The sergeant paused for effect …

“I can tell y’now if this were a longer trip, the little fella would be fish food now!” Billy took an involuntary swallow, convinced Sgt. Rickman had some horrible punishment in mind.

“Still, what’s done is done. He’ll be your responsibility. You’ll be the one feeding and cleaning up after him, and sharing your bunk and rations in case yer thought the army was gonna pay for his grub?”

Relief swept over the trembling young gunner, much preferring to keep Bobtail with him than be locked up in some room out of the way. Still, all he could think to say was: “Yes, Sergeant!”

“Okay. Be on yer way then,” the sergeant huffed, and then just as Billy was about to turn away, Sgt Rickman gave him a wink, and a hint of a knowing grin before he left. A beaming smile swept across Billy’s face as he and Bobtail made their way back to the troop quarters.

“Thanks, Sarge,” Billy had answered before closing the door before him, anxious to be away before the sergeant changed his mind.

Sgt. Rickman sighed and shook his head gently from side to side, wondering what would become of the two of them once they got to the front. He wasn’t hopeful about their chances …

 

scottie2They were a bit cramped in their bunks, but the boy soldiers all gave quite a cheer seeing the two of them come in. Little Bobtail had become a firm favourite among the lads, many of whom were no doubt missing their own dogs. Perhaps Bobtail was a little reminder of home for them? Needless to say, they all chipped in with scraps and titbits from their grub for the little dog that had become their unofficial mascot.

Bobtail absolutely loved all the attention and fuss he was getting. Of course, he still loved Billy the best, but this was like a whole new family for him, and he loved them all.

 

It wasn’t long before the troop ship was docking, and they all were marched off the ship to waiting trucks for the short drive to where their real soldiering would begin.

Bobtail was clearly becoming a little agitated, the sound of guns and artillery already in earshot even before they’d boarded the back of their transport. Billy held him close, and Bobtail seemed to calm down, safely wrapped up in his master’s arms.

“It’s okay boy, nothing’s going to hurt you, you’ll be safe with me, I promise,” Billy said softly, though far from sure he’d be able to keep that promise. Billy had been overjoyed to see Bobtail across the deck, but only now was he beginning to realise how much danger the little dog had put itself in by dashing aboard the ship to be with him. If it had been in his power to do so, Billy would have whisked the little dog right back home that moment. Unfortunately, it wasn’t; whatever the enemy had to throw at them, they would face it together.

Billy doubted the little dog would ever be totally at ease with the sound of the guns and artillery shells, the sirens, or any of the deafening sounds of frontline warfare. He was immensely proud though of the way Bobtail was coping, no longer whining or barking at them now. In fact, Bobtail seemed to be coping a lot better than he was. Until now, Bobtail had pretty much kept out of the way other than to follow behind his master.

No one seemed to mind the extra couple of feet the unofficial battery mascot took up among them in the trenches and had now taken to calling him ‘Battery Bob.’ Even a few of the officers had taken to throwing Bobtail the odd titbit from the scarce rations, grateful for the morale boost he seemed to be giving the men.

After what they’d seen and done in the few days they’d been there, they had long since left their ‘boyhood’ behind them, however much they might have lied about their ages.

 

“We need a volunteer to run a telegraph wire to our forward battery trench to coordinate our advance,” Sgt. Rickman said as he addressed his troop. It wasn’t the sort of assignment anyone wanted to volunteer for. The trench the sergeant was referring too was some three hundred yards across the field of fire of snipers and the constant bombardment of the Jack Johnson artillery shells, so called for the black billowing smoke that accompanied their detonation.

A man made for too big a target running across the no man’s land, and stealthily crawling made him too slow a one, either way making for an unenviable task. Nonetheless and knowing full well the danger, Billy stepped forward …

 

“Good lad,” Sgt. Rickman said.

In truth, Billy was the last one he wanted to volunteer. There were older and more seasoned soldiers better suited to the job, but he didn’t have time to argue and wouldn’t have been doing Billy any favourers showing him favouritism.

“Pass me the wire-roll end as soon as I climb up top,” Billy told the sergeant. Unnoticed by anyone, Bobtail trotted after him as Billy edged himself up and out over the top edge of their trench before someone passed him the wooden rod to which the one end of the telegraph wire was attached. Billy’s job would be to keep hold of it while it unfurled from the wire-roll back in the trench as he crawled through the mud-soaked and barbed wire strewed land. No one had any illusions as to Billy’s chances of making it, but equally, he had to try.

“Shoo, get back down, back in the trench, boy” Billy urged the little dog that had followed him up, trying to shoo him away with his hand too. For once, Bobtail ignored his master’s commands. Bobtail had seen others of the ‘family’ he’d grown to love try crawling across the no man’s land with such things … they hardly ever came back.

Bobtail lunged towards him, grabbing the rod and wire between his teeth before scurrying off into the night. Being little, Bobtail was no greyhound, but he could still run and dart in and out of the tiniest holes in the ground way faster and effectively than any human could.

Billy wanted to shout out to the little dog to call him back but knew that would only attract enemy fire in their direction. Sgt. Rickman too had popped his head above the parapet to see what was happening …

“What the f…?” Sgt. Rickman started to say.

“I’m sorry, Sarge, he just grabbed and run off with it before I could stop him.”

“It’s okay, lad, he’s going in the right direction. And honestly, he’s already got a lot farther than I thought you would, Marston,” the sergeant added, giving Billy a gentle nudge of the arm.

Bobtail completed the task like a seasoned professional, darting this way and that, occasionally stopping to take cover in one of the bomb blast craters before continuing. The whole operation took less than five minutes.

Through their field binoculars, Sgt. Rickman and Billy watched Bobtail make it all the way to the forward battery trench. Five minutes later they watched the plucky little pooch start on its return run, this time carrying a letters pouch, probably containing more detailed communications from their forward battery.

“Good, good dog, great job, love you little fella,” was all Billy could blubber over and over again, hugging and stroking Bobtail the moment he landed practically in Billy’s arms from jumping back down into the trench. Sgt Rickman took the letters pouch from around Bobtail’s neck to take them to the officer in command.

scottie3From that moment on, Bobtail was regarded as much a part of the artillery battery as any human soldier, a canine combatant that had won the hearts and admiration of its comrades.

*

Following the latest offensive, Billy had been catapulted headlong into one of the abandoned makeshift trenches by an exploding artillery shell. Knocked unconscious by the blast, Billy just lay there for several hours, assumed to have been killed by the rest of his battery which had been forced to retreat …

 

Billy had no idea what was washing over his face. He knew it wasn’t the poison gas, he’d either be dead or retching up his insides if it had been.

 

“Urgh,” Billy exclaimed in mock disgust, yet he really couldn’t have been happier. He would have recognised that wet slobbering tongue anywhere, though he did have a moment of panic, wondering if he was, in fact, dead and now reunited with his beloved Bobtail in heaven? But no, the dog’s scent and smell were that of a breathing flesh and blood creature.

They were both still in the land of the living, though from behind enemy lines, probably not for much longer Billy feared. He may have been alive, but the pain in his leg and blood-stained uniform was a sharp reminder their chances weren’t good. He knew he’d lost a lot of blood, and the effects of that were causing him to drift in and out of consciousness.

Bobtail licked at his face for a few moments. It surprised him when a second later the faithful dog suddenly turned tail to run back in the opposite direction towards their own lines of defence.

Billy was confused, though pleased Bobtail might have a chance of getting back to safety. A moment later, Billy passed out.

 

By the end of their time at the front, Bobtail had saved dozens, possibly hundreds of lives from his many runs between the trenches and across enemy territory, carrying vital information, and locating wounded soldiers.

Bobtail hadn’t deserted Billy in running back to the battery trench. As he’d done many times before by now, Bobtail had been sent out to use his acute sense of smell to try and find the wounded Billy in case he was still alive. Bobtail hadn’t failed and led Billy’s comrades right to him before their return to the UK to treat Billy’s injuries.

*

Bobtail had no idea what all the fuss was about, other than he couldn’t remember being happier, having so many lovely people patting him, giving him treats, and smiling.

He wasn’t so impressed with being plonked on a podium and some human he didn’t know placing a ribbon about his neck. Some metal thing was hanging from it too, but Billy seemed okay with it given the beaming smile and look of pride across his face.

If Billy was happy then so was he, though he was tempted to pee over the other human’s arm to show his annoyance. Thankfully he didn’t.

 

“In honour of the brave actions of Bobtail, also known to his many friend and comrades as Battery Bob.” At that point, there was a spontaneous roar of laughter and approval from many of Billy’s and Bobtails’ comrades from the frontline. Bobtail gave a loud bark too, his tail wagging furiously in sync with his persistent yapping.

This was Bobtail’s moment, and Colonel Smythe who had been giving the speech wisely allowed the crowd their moment …

Smiling and giving a gentle rub and pat of Bobtail’s head before continuing: “I take immense pleasure in having presented our canine hero here with this medal for bravery in having saved innumerable lives and to express how proud and grateful to him we all are.” The villagers and crowd cheered their agreement.

Amid the cheering, Sgt. Rickman shouted in his loudest and most terrifying Drill Sergeant voice, “Three Cheers for Battery Bob.”

After several rounds of ‘Hip Hip Hoorays,’ Colonel Smythe concluded his speech with six simple words …

“Battery ‘Bobtail’ Bob, we salute you.”

***

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Book Review – Of Wolves and Sheep.

My review of S.E. Meyer’s captivating novella …

Of Wolves and Sheep (Anna Wool Book 1)

click Here for Amazon US link – Here for UK link

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5stars Loved this terrifying little glimpse into a scarily all too possible future …

This novella lengthed tale of murder, personal and corporate greed, and a mysterious ‘Lonewolf’ character’s attempts to uncover the truth of a mysterious disease infecting the whole world eventually progresses to some startling revelations. Amid the wider story too, a lone detective, Anna Wool, is also looking for a more personal truth, of why her mother was murdered. 

There are many frightening themes touched upon in this story, namely those of the growing influence of social media, the internet, and other surveillance of our everyday lives to name but a few. Combine these with increasing corporate wealth and power, and the lengths to which the rich will go to maintain both, and you have the ingredients for a bleak and sinister future. Admittedly here they are taken somewhat further than in the present, but all the beginnings of the dystopian world in which detective Anna Wool lives can be seen in embryo in the world of today. 

While this reads well as a stand-alone story, it leaves plenty of scope and unanswered questions for Book 2 in the series. Anna Wool Book 1 would though more accurately be described as ‘part one’ of a longer story rather than book 1 of a series of stand-alone books, which isn’t made as clear as it might be from the Amazon description. For entertainment value and quality of writing, it gets a 5-star rating; the characterisation and dialogue are first-rate, and just the right level of excellent description and action to paint a visual picture of the story being told. However, I think it might have read better as a full novel, and for that reason alone, if there was a more precise rating system my overall rating would be, say, 4.7/8. Nonetheless, a darned good read and wider story premise with heaps of potential for further instalments, and certainly enough to entice me into buying Book 2 when it becomes available. 

***

See below for S.E. Meyer’s social media links …

Twitter:  @SEMeyerBooks

Fb author page:  @semeyerbooks

Amazon profile:  S.E. Meyer Author page 

 

More about the author …

meyer2S. E. MEYER has been studying ancient civilizations and religions from around the world for over ten years. As a boy, Meyer grew up in the wilderness of northern Ontario Canada and spent his time learning how to hunt, fish, and survive in the north. He moved to the lovely state of Wisconsin at 18, where he has now spent his entire adult life.

Self-employed, a part-time consultant for the Department Of Defense, and now living in the northwestern part of Wisconsin with his wife and two sons, Meyer still loves the outdoors and tries to spend as much time there as possible.

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Gardening, campfires, travelling and fishing are some of his favourite things and Mr Meyer also loves to entertain; either by playing the guitar or through captivating stories on the page. Additional hobbies include reading non-fiction and fiction as well as spending hundreds of hours thoroughly researching the topics in his books.

S.E. Meyer is also a long-standing member and contributor to the IASD Fb group and its sister site at: www.indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.com

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(Pre-release) Book Review – Spectral State

Senan1Senan Gil Senan is an author who I’ve reviewed several times before, namely IASDpichis two-part (to date) highly acclaimed Outlander Sci-Fi series, and his equally well-received short story collection, A Stitch in Time

In addition to his regular writing, Senan Gil Senan is a regular reviewer and valued contributor to the IASD FB writing group and its sister site at:

  www.indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.com

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Available for pre-order now prior to the 9th February launch date …

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stars5How ‘The Matrix’ might have turned out had it been written by Michael Crichton … Senan’s best yet!

SG9bA first-rate thriller that effortlessly blends elements of different genres. The central premise of the story definitely excels in the traditional thriller style, bringing into it rival intelligence agencies, international and domestic espionage, enemies both home and abroad, and a host of enigmatic characters, particularly several ex-military. Amid all the high-powered spying and covert warfare, there’s also a horrifically unpleasant brutal assault and murder that provides the catalyst for further events. Added to this more familiar framework, the author soon incorporates a variety of high-tech and speculative parapsychology/esp themes, adding a distinct ‘sci-fi’ feel to the story. Some of these ideas and technology, and indeed several of the characters, bear an obvious resemblance to elements of the Matrix, though minus all the ‘human battery’ nonsense I’m glad to say – I couldn’t help thinking at one point this might well have been how ‘The Matrix’ ended up had it originally been a Michael Crichton book. Indeed, early in the story the author deliberately plants those similarities in the reader’s mind with a few throwaway references, and yet, they are quickly expanded upon and treated in an entirely different and original way while drawing in other topical areas of research ie, quantum physics and nanotechnology, to enhance the story. There are lots of twists and turns along the way, with many of the original similarities with The Matrix re-emerging again in the latter part of the story, but again, retaining their own originality. 

The central character, Hano, at first seems like a most unlikely hero or main protagonist, and certainly no ‘Neo,’ at least not initially. Superficially, Hano couldn’t be more different to his potential colleagues – young, no military background, lacking ambition, and socially awkward/shy on account of some unspecified level of autism, possibly linked to the unique talents that lead to his recruitment as a ‘remote viewer’ with a secret government agency. 

For such a clever and ambitious storyline, the author avoided over-complicating things, and I found it surprisingly easy to follow. I was particularly impressed too by the way in which the author handled Hano’s autism, treating it as just another descriptive aspect of his character/persona, alluding to it only where necessary in the same way being young or old, male or female, or even tall or short might be relevant in a story. The science/tech aspects were subtly explained/shown without too much ‘info dumping,’ and again, pretty much at a level that might be expected for the sort of reader with at least a modicum of interest in science and technology, but not obviously beyond the average layman in such areas. Likewise, the military action/characters were not over-emphasised to the point of turning the book into a semi-military story, though having said that, the one tiny reservation I had here was that there were times when some of the military characterisations, fight scenes, and confrontations felt a little ‘skimmed over’ (though better that than over-elaborating and getting stuff wrong), and where, if I’m honest, I felt the author was slightly ‘winging’ it in that respect. Thankfully it didn’t spoil the writing or story in any way, just one tiny area where there might be a little room for improvement in any future/similar books of what has the potential for a cracking good series.

Though I’ve enjoyed the author’s previous books, this latest ranks as his best to date in my opinion. An easy and well-deserved 5 stars!

sg9a   Spectral3  Spectral1

***

 

To follow Senan Gil Senan  elsewhere on social media, please see below: 

Blog: www.senagilsenan.wordpress.com

Twitter: @AngusCactus

Amazon: Sean Gil Senan author page

 

More about the author …

Senan Gil Senan believes that it is the job of a writer to visually transport a reader to a place he or she is unlikely to venture. Then without alienating them, it is to introduce them to a pattern of thought that may differ from their own.

SGSamazonHis writing is not typical of the science fiction and dystopian genres. It is more visionary, in that it examines the effect of technology and bio-engineering on future society. He is an adamant believer that humans will integrate more and more with technology in order to keep up with the deluge of technological advances created by the advent of artificial intelligence. He believes that this emergent sentience will be shaped by human interaction, much the same as a child.

His own interests include psychology, noetic science, physics, theology & philosophy and ancient history. He agrees with RR Martin who said that any writer who is looking for an intriguing character, a gripping scenario or plot twist, needs to look no further than the pages of a history book.

He was named Senan, by his father Patrick Gilsenan who thought that the name would look good on the cover of a book. He was an Irish printer who yearned to see his own prose and poetry appear in print. Sadly he died before achieving either ambition. Senan left behind the beauty of Sligo in Ireland to set off for London and oblique strategy of career choices. These included working fourteen years as a computer systems engineer. He has also worked as a self-employed financial trader, a writer, an employment adviser, and as a bar manager. He still lives in South London with his wife and family.

Short story – Blind Devotion

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Another short story taster from my up-coming anthology, Canine Tales: A  Growling Pack of Hungry Horrors, book 2 in my Creature Tales collection (due out the end of March this year).

Blind Devotion

puppy1Lucy first met her master to be as a wee young pup, no bigger than a palm-sized tiny ball of mischievous fur, but with a heart as big as the world. In stark contrast to the gorgeous golden coat of fur starting to emerge, she had the sort of big beautiful brown puppy eyes that made you instantly fall in love with her.

The introduction was to see if she immediately took to the man whose life she would hopefully transform. From the moment she was placed on the couch beside him, Lucy nestled up beside his leg. The man sitting there instinctively reached down to caress and stroke her back. Lucy liked that, turning to lick his hand. It was clear from the start they were going to be a good match when the time came.

Vince Downing had slowly been losing his sight for several years. It was just a matter of time, perhaps a year to eighteen months at most before the last flicker of light disappeared forever. He wasn’t bitter about it, just one of those things, the luck of the draw as he would say. But he already missed his independence and hoped a guide dog would at least help make him less reliant on others. In return, he would love and care for that dog with every fibre of his being; like Lucy, he had the kindest nature you could hope for in a man, or indeed a dog too. Thankfully, Vince still had enough sight left to cope with the 12 months of puppy raising before she went off to the training centre. It practically broke his heart when the time came to wave his faithful companion off after guide dog trainer, Chris Morton, arrived to collect her.

 

puppy2Lucy had been a dream to work with, and Chris Morton would be sorry to see her go, more than he cared to admit even to himself. He’d made the cardinal mistake of any trainer in becoming overly fond of one of his charges. Lucy too had grown to love the man who had patiently taught her all she knew, but even so, Chris was a sighted man, and would never need her in the way she was being trained for. Lucy understood this.

She was a natural for the job; it wasn’t that she was some blindly obedient canine equivalent of a sat-nav, she had a wilful and mischievous playful streak, but when it came to the important stuff, she instinctively knew what was expected. Come ‘playtime’ though, she always enjoyed the rewards of all the hard work she was putting in. But after nearly 9 months of obedience and guidance training, Lucy was ready to fulfil the role she’d been earmarked for when her loveable nature and extraordinary intelligence had first been remarked on.

The timing was fortuitous – Vince had less than 5 per cent of his sight now and had officially registered as fully blind. All that was forgotten though when Chris brought Lucy back. Vince recognised her bark immediately.

 

“Hello, my Lucy, I’ve missed you so sooooo much, girl,” Vince said, kneeling to give her a welcoming stroke of her back. Lucy licked at his hand, just like she used to when he was puppy raising her. Now though, she held her boisterous personality in check – no sudden jumping up at him or quite the same playful nature as before. Lucy had been taught well; she knew her master’s limitations and her role as his guide and protector.

For the next three years, the two of them were very happy together. Lucy was everything Vince could have wanted in a guide dog, and just as importantly, as faithful a friend and companion as ever lived.

With all the modern technology and speech to text software available, Vince was able to continue his career as a successful writer. With several best-sellers to his name, Vince was now a very wealthy man. Such success had attracted a lot of interest of late, though in the most recent case, not from a good source. In a recent interview, the subject of his blindness had come up, something a certain career criminal by the name of Dean Smith had picked up on. Dean was a thief, burglar, and one-time street robber, the last of which he’d given up when one of his victims decided to fight back. Nowadays he was far more selective about his victims, usually picking the elderly or otherwise vulnerable. Vince Downing sounded like a perfect candidate.

Though not the smartest guy in the world, Dean knew his way around a keyboard and the internet and was soon able to discover the well-to-do address where Vince lived. A quick check on StreetView showed it to be an expensive house too, no doubt filled with valuables. He made his plans accordingly …

 

It seemed like the perfect night to put his plans into operation. Months of planning and preparation, and exploiting Vince’s blindness, had allowed him to neutralise the problem of Vince’s burglar alarms and other security measures. His only concern was Vince’s guide dog. Observation had revealed she had free run of the extensive gardens to the back of Vince’s house day and night. Dean figured that throwing  several pieces of drugged meat in them enough to keep her quiet on the night; his first thought had been to simply lace said meat with some fatal poison, but he’d read somewhere that if he used enough to ensure death, a dog’s acute sense of smell might alert it to the danger. On the other hand, if he used less than a significant amount, he’d have no way of knowing how long it would be to take effect. Reluctantly, Dean opted for lacing it with a sleeping draft, harmless in the long-term, but sufficient to knock her out long enough to rob Vince’s house without interference once inside. As it happened, his plan worked better than he could have hoped for. Lucy enthusiastically devoured the bait, quickly succumbing to its effects.

Noticing the increasing lethargy of his beloved companion, Vince wasted no time in calling for a vet, and Lucy’s trainer, Chris Morton. The fact that she simply appeared ill rather than there being any obvious effects of being poisoned, it didn’t arouse the same sort of suspicion that would have followed the latter.

Dean was watching from inside his van at a discreet distance when both the vet and Lucy’s trainer arrived. Shortly afterwards, the dog was taken away in the veterinary ambulance with Chris in attendance. Vince had wanted to go too but had reluctantly accepted Chris’s assurances that he would stay with her until the vets gave the okay to bring her home.

Vince was now in the house alone. It was already getting late and the time Vince usually went to bed. Nonetheless, Dean waited another hour, not being able to rely on the usual turning off of lights to indicate Vince going to bed as he would with a sighted person.  Dean figured though on having several hours at the very least, and more probably until the next day before the dog was likely to be returned home. Still, he was anxious to get in and out asap; the last thing he wanted was to wait too long and risk being interrupted in the middle of a robbery. With the alarms already taken care of and the dog out of the way, Dean made his way through the rear garden, entering the house via one of the back doors. That was the point where things started to go awry. Dean had been wrong to think Vince would simply go to bed, knowing his beloved Lucy might be fighting for her life. Of course, he hadn’t gone to bed. What would be the point given the worry and turmoil raging through his mind? Even so, being worried and anxious wasn’t enough to stop Vince from picking up on the faint noise Dean was making as he rummaged through Vince’s study and other rooms to the rear of the house, assuming the occupant to be asleep upstairs. It was perhaps that same worry and anxiety that prevented Vince from thinking straight; he had a panic button/app on his mobile phone to trigger an alert to the local police station, but he’d left it in the kitchen, and instead. instinctively called out …

“Hello, is someone there?” Dean froze. The voice sounded like it had come from close-by, an adjacent room maybe, but certainly a downstairs one. The sensible thing to do would have been to get the hell out. But not Dean. He had invested a lot of time and effort into this job and wasn’t about to give it up.

In the semi-dark, he worried that Vince might have an advantage in a confrontation and switched a light on to see better. He took an involuntary gasp at seeing Vince standing in an opposite doorway just a few feet away.

“Please, I know someone’s there. Please, just go, I won’t call the authorities or anything,” Vince pleaded. Again, Dean was being given a second chance to cut his losses and run.  Instead of taking it, he instinctively lunged and struck Vince with the flashlight he was still holding. It was a hard blow that sent him crashing to the ground and combined with the force his head hit the polished wooden floor, a fatal one too. It wasn’t how he had planned things, but Dean knew he could dispense with being so quiet now and proceeded to ransack the house for any cash or high-value items.

Chris tried phoning Vince later that night to let him know Lucy had had her stomach pumped and would recover just fine. There was no answer. He guessed Vince must have gone to bed, and so elected to return with Lucy the next morning. Again, there was no answer to the doorbell. Lucy was barking loudly; not the usual enthusiastic barking that you might expect from being reunited with her owner, but a more urgent and agitated sort, so Chris used the key Vince had given him to let himself in. As soon as the door opened, Lucy pulled free of Chris and ran inside to where Vince was lying. Had he simply been unconscious or asleep, Lucy would have licked at his face, nudging him with her nose to try and waken him, but Lucy knew the smell of death, and that her beloved owner wasn’t going to be getting up to stroke and caress her ever again. She slumped beside him, softly whining. Chris joined them a moment later, kneeling to take Vince’s pulse to check for life despite the futility; he could see from Lucy’s body language and lack of interaction with her owner that Vince was surely dead.

 

Chris Morton was not happy with the decision to assign Lucy elsewhere quite so soon after her owner’s death, especially given that Vince had left him his house and a large sum of money for Lucy’s future care and veterinary bills. Ideally, he would have liked to take Lucy himself, allowing her to continue living in the home she had shared with her former master. But guide dogs possessed exceptional qualities and were expensive to train. There simply weren’t enough of them to go around, and not to reassign her would be too much of a waste. Chris understood the reasoning and agreed to introduce her to a prospective new owner.

The man in question had recently been blinded in a street attack, acid thrown in his face according to the file. While feeling sorry for the man, Chris couldn’t help but wonder might have provoked such a vicious attack. It could of course have just been another senseless act of violence, but if not, it worried him then just what sort of man he would be leaving Lucy with? He forced himself to put the thought from his mind as he made his way to the man’s apartment.

There was no garden for her to play in, and the area was in the poorer part of town, not the sort of place he would want for Lucy. But rich and poor alike were deserving of the very best help they could get, and if he was a decent sort, there was no reason to believe Lucy wouldn’t adapt and be just as happy as she had been with Vince.

The meeting was short and perfunctory. The man seemed to have little interest in asking questions about Lucy’s care other than how much it cost to feed a mutt? Lucy for her part didn’t display the usual degree of curiosity and affection either when meeting someone new for the first time. Oddly, she seemed more interested in sniffing about the man’s apartment, in his closets and cupboards like a sniffer dog looking for drugs. After completing a few formalities, Chris reluctantly left Lucy in the man’s care, determined not to allow his misgivings to influence him.

 

Lucy was guiding her new master to some local street corner. To exactly where and what for, Lucy had no way of knowing, her job was to simply ensure he got to wherever he was walking without mishap. It was night, and while that made no difference to the man at the other end of the leash, it was not ideal for Lucy guiding him.

They stopped at a crossing. Despite the late hour, there was a lot of noise and activity, too much for the audible warning to either wait or cross to be heard. Lucy could see and hear the approach of the oncoming bus. A gentle tug on her lead was the cue for her master that it was safe to cross. A split second later he caught the full force of the bus, killing him instantly. Thankfully, Lucy had managed to jump back in the nick of time, her leash immediately dropped from her master’s grasp at the moment of impact, and so she remained safe. The police and an ambulance quickly arrived on the scene, but too late. Lucy had stayed put where she was just as she was trained to do. The emergency service staff arranged for Lucy to be returned to the guide dog training centre as per the information on her dog tag. 

Back at the centre, there was some discussion on how such an accident could have occurred. Lucy was by far the best guide dog they had ever trained, but Chris was able to successfully argue that given the circumstances, Lucy could no longer be relied upon in the role. No one objected to Chris applying for her custody.

 

Epilogue …

Subsequent investigations into the background of Lucy’s second deceased master threw up some interesting results. A search of his apartment revealed several items stolen from Vince Downing’s house along with forensic and DNA evidence linking him to the tragic robbery and murder. It was those same items that had almost certainly prompted Lucy to immediately start sniffing around the apartment when Chris first took her there. Some remnant of Vince’s scent was probably what had alerted her, though Chris was hardly to know that at the time. Speculation immediately arose as to whether Lucy may have deliberately allowed Dean Smith to walk into oncoming traffic, leading to do his death?

There were a few jobsworth officials who tried to insist that Lucy might be a danger to people and since, for obvious reasons, Lucy could not be questioned on the matter, it might be best to have her put down. On the other hand, the consensus was that Dean had got exactly what he deserved. There was little doubt either that the acid attack had most likely been related to his criminal activities, and besides, any suggestion of taking action against Lucy would have outraged every dog and other animal lover in the country. The last thing any Texas judge wanted was to be the first in the world’s execution capital to be the voted out of office by the dog vote.

To this day, Lucy still sleeps on her favourite rug in the exact spot where her former master, Vince, had died.

puppy3

For more canine-themed stories – some sad, some savage, and others more subtle – keep tuned for:

a2y

Publication date – 31st March 2019

Flash Fiction story – Bad Review

iasdpic1

Based on an Fb news post that was shared with my ISAD writing group, I decided to apply a little of the ‘Rudders Writing’ touch to it.  Hope you enjoy it …

***

 

Bad Review

typewriter2Sonia Dixon just loved to read. Her favourite genre was crime and murder, the bloodier and gorier the better. She was also a successful author, blogger, and reviewer, and just as she strove to produce the very best in her own writing, she demanded it too in the many books she was sent for review on her blog.

The cover and blurb for ‘Piling up the Bodies’ by Nick Hazelwood had promised much but delivered little. In fact, it was by far the worst book she’d read since she couldn’t remember when. Unfortunately, Nick hadlittlerat1 already been blogging and posting that the famous authoress, Sonia Dixon, was eagerly devouring his debut novel, even before she’d read the first page. In doing so, Nick had made it difficult for her to privately message him with a polite ‘it’s not really my thing, sorry. Good luck with your future writing.’

Well okay, he would get his public review …

 

‘A great idea for a story but poorly handled. The methods of execution and body disposal were too bland for me. Personally, I prefer something a little more imaginative than simple bludgeoning and dismembering and feeding the bodies to the dogs? Sorry, but not my cup of tea.’

 

To say Nick Hazelwood wasn’t pleased with the review of his literary masterpiece would be the mother of all understatements. He imagined all manner of horrible things he would do to the high and mighty Sonia Dixon, ways of killing her far worse than that of any of his literary victims, though not of course before giving her a piece of his mind on how wrong she was about his fantastic book. With the aid of social media, it was a straightforward matter tracking down the address of a high-profile authoress. It was a bit out of the way, some farm in the middle of nowhere in fact. That suited his purposes perfectly …

 

Living in the remote highlands of Scotland, Sonia Dixon wasn’t used to visitors, so was more than a little intrigued at who might be at the door …

 

“Hello, can I help you?” she asked the man standing before her. It wasn’t anyone from one of the neighbouring farms, and yet, he looked familiar, though she couldn’t remember from where

 “Call yourself a writer?” Nick screamed at her, “what’s wrong with feeding body parts to the dogs? All the crap you write is more like the stuff of cheap, second-rate B-movie horror scripts.”

“Uh?” was her first response, not sure of what else to say?

“It’s writers like you who keep readers hooked on a diet of cliched rubbish while real talent goes undiscovered.” Sonia Dixon was confused. Yes, she’d heard the same old drivel a thousand time before, but only online, not on her fucking doorstep. Then the penny dropped, his mention of feeding bodies to the dogs. She remembered where she’d seen him before, well, his blog avatar anyway.

“Don’t you think it would have been more appropriate to say all that in an email rather than travelling hundreds of miles? Or did you just want to be offensive in person?” That wasn’t the response Nick had expected. She was supposed to be scared, terrified even of what was going to happen next, just like his literary victims. Instead, she was mocking him, just like she’d done in her review. He was about to push past her when she invited him in.

“Why don’t we discuss your issues inside? I’ll make you a nice cup of tea while you calm down, and then we can talk about your book and the review.” Nick nodded his agreement. The first thing he noticed were the shelves and shelves of ‘true and unsolved’ crime books lining the walls and every little nook and cranny. Meanwhile, Sonia had made her way to the adjacent kitchen. Nick kept her in his sight, checking she wasn’t using her mobile to call for help. Actually, that was the last thing on her mind. A few minutes later she returned with their tea.

 

Nick was too drowsy from the sleeping pills she’d slipped him to see the blow coming. A solid whack with a poker to the back of his head had put an immediate end to his now slurred droning of how wrong she was about bludgeoning victims to death and feeding them to the dogs.

 

One week later …

block1Nick’s arrival couldn’t have come at a better time. ‘Writer’s Block’ had been crippling Sonia Dixon’s creativity, not that that stopped readers from screaming for another blood and gore fest horror from her. Thanks to Nick, she was now several thousand words into what she hoped would be another best-seller. She had to admit, elements of Nick’s story had worked a treat for her. She only had the one dog, ChiChi, a pint-sized sausage dog, and hardly big enough to devour a whole man, but she did have several pigs that fulfilled the role even better.pigs1

She made a note to write more scathing reviews in the future, especially for when the dreaded Writer’s Block hit again.

 

If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more like this, please stay tuned for:

Scheduled for publication, June/July 2019

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