Note: the pieces by Jack Rollins are not eligible for the SubDemon Go! competition and were produced purely to set the scene in the new competition. If you’d like to judge or enter this free competition, please check out the terms and conditions here – you will find a link for registration at the bottom of that page.
“Can’t you just collect the bounty on it, Dad?” Caitlin asked. It struck me how her voice had lost the childish whine.
“They’re not animals, Caitlin. This isn’t like me pitting your rabbit against your bearded dragon, here. These things are evil … and for Christ’s sake, this is the way they made the world. If they hadn’t come through, all would be well … Okay, all would be as well as it was before. We would be going to Hell instead of Hell coming to us.” I flashed her a grin.
“I’m not coming in, Dad.”
“Spare me the Greenpeace act, Caitlin. I’m going. You’re not staying out here alone. That’s it decided.”
My daughter’s silence as she climbed out of the car screamed dissatisfaction.
The four creatures caged in the car boot bashed against the bars in vain attempts at escape as I popped the lid. I cast a glance about the parked cars and the folks streaming along the great concrete slabs that formed the path upon the site of the old colliery. Many of them carried cages shrouded in cloth or tarpaulin, some lugged solid metal boxes along, but there were a few who didn’t care who saw what they were taking to the fights. Often they were newcomers, yet to learn the tricks of the seasoned handlers.
“Fuckface, I choose you,” I said, grabbing the handle of the cage with the ugliest of my four critters. Branded with the script that highlighted him as the soul of a rapist warped into an eight-eyed, cat-sized animal with razor teeth, clawed hands and a thick, spiked cock. He’d fought like a bastard when I caught him. Almost broke my right shin with that cock of his – yeah, he uses the fucking thing as a mace! Anyway, he was new to me, I hadn’t put him into a fight yet and I was keen to see what he would do.
“Why do you call him that, Dad? That’s a horrible name.”
“He just looks like a Fuckface to me.” No way I was explaining about the branding on his brutish little body.
I slammed the boot lid down, to the disappointed grunts and squeals of my remaining captive sub-demons. Caitlin and I walked with the crowd towards the corrugated iron walls of the fighting pits. Spotlights swept the area, vigilant for attacks from wandering sub-demons or for police raids. Not that we expected many of them. The police were too busy trying to quell the looting and general carnage of society’s decline. Once they realized there was a hell and we’re all probably going to it, the people of the world just seemed to say, in one voice: fuck it.
“Evening, Jack,” one of the guards welcomed me as I reached the gates.
“Hi Paul. Any surprises in store tonight?”
“Oh, I think Jerry’s keeping it straightforward this time. Maybe something special next week.”
That meant Jerry, the bloke who ran this fighting pit, definitely had something planned for next week. In all likelihood, he had managed to get his hands on a particularly large creature to throw into the ring as an extra challenge for little guys like Fuckface. I tend not to mind so much, so long as it’s not into eating its fellow sub-demons. I mean, when I throw useless or injured fighters in there with the thing, I need a carcass to be able to collect a bounty, after all.
The gambling was well under way at some of the smaller arenas on the way to the main pit. A yelping dog somewhere off to my left told me that a sub-demon was about to win that particular fight. I wasn’t bothered about pitting these things against earthly creatures, though … that being said, I have won a little money betting on human idiots being mauled to death in the pits. But other things, like dogs, and that time someone threw a chimpanzee in with one … I don’t know, somehow it doesn’t appeal to me. It’s cheap entertainment. But watching a man fight them, or watching these bastards smash each other to death, now that’s a show.
Caitlin handled the money for me. She has a clearer head than me. I tend to get carried away and overstretch myself. She takes no notice of the stake I call to her, she decides the stake for herself, but she always follows my instructions when it comes to picking the winner. So when I say, for instance, “Stick £100 on Titback,” she’ll probably only put £50 on it. If Titback wins I’ll tell her she needs to follow my instructions. If Titback gets torn to shreds, I’ll tell her she has better judgment than I do. And that’s the truth, she does. She’s the reason we can pay the inflated prices of food and drink. She’s the reason we’re alive.
When Fuckface’s time came, he was fucking furious. The roar of the spectators, the bookies shouting odds and taking bets, the distress calls of the other creatures, it all served to rile him right up. Good, I thought. I need him mean in there.
I hung my arms over the side of the pit, with the cage in my hands its gate catch raised. I eyed my opponent, an old farmer, who adopted the same position. The ref shouted the start of the bout and I dropped the cage into the pit. My opponent did likewise.
As soon as Fuckface’s cage hit the sand, the gate popped open and he was out like a bullet after his foe. Unfortunately for the farmer, the tentacled Limbsnapper he had chosen to throw in, had thrashed about when the cage dropped, and it landed gate down. Fuckface smashed the cage aside and Limbsnapper might be pretty good at taking out legs and arms … turns out it wasn’t too hot when it came to snapping mace-like dicks.
Easiest £200 I ever made.
Jack Rollins was born and raised among the twisting cobbled streets and lanes, ruined forts and rolling moors of a medieval market town in Northumberland, England. He claims to have been adopted by Leeds in West Yorkshire, and he spends as much time as possible immersed in the shadowy heart of that city.
Writing has always been Jack’s addiction, whether warping the briefing for his English class homework, or making his own comic books as a child, he always had some dark tale to tell.
Fascinated by all things Victorian, Jack often writes within that era, but also creates contemporary nightmarish visions in horror and dark urban fantasy.
He currently lives in Northumberland, with his partner, two sons, and his daughter living a walking distance from his home, which is slowly but surely being overtaken by books…
Jack’s published works are as follows:
The Séance: A Gothic Tale of Horror and Misfortune
The Cabinet of Dr Blessing
Anti-Terror, in Carnage: Extreme Horror
Home, Sweet Home in Kill For A Copy
Tread Gently Amidst The Barrows
Spores, in Black Room Manuscripts Vol 2
Conquistador, in What Goes Around
My Last Easter, in Easter Eggs and Bunny Boilers