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.
“Is it showing up, yet? If I drive right down into the lane, and it’s too big for us to handle, we’ll be screwed. No way we’ll reverse out quicker than some of those things move. And there’s not enough room down there to turn around.”
Caitlin pulled one of her earphones out and screwed up her face. “What did you say, Dad?”
“Never mind. Look, I’m going down there on foot.”
“Are you sure? What if it’s too big for us?”
I rolled my eyes heavenward. “It’s great that my backup is as attentive as ever.” I killed the engine and climbed out of the car. “Pass me my phone, kiddo.”
Caitlin held the i-phone 6 plus out of the open window. I glanced at the screen to see the GPS screen, my avatar, switch from a car to a human figure now that the GPS registered the slower movement. A signal like a ripple on the surface of a pond pulsed fifty meters in front of me, down the tarmac slope into the cobbled lane behind two of my favorite pubs, The Black Swan and The Dirty Bottles.
The still July night afforded plenty of light even at nine in the evening, but the day’s sticky heat had not shifted and my t-shirt clung to my back like another skin. I grabbed my leather jacket and cursed the weight of the thing, with the metal plates I’d attached to the chest, shoulders, and forearms. The jacket was restrictive, very restrictive, in fact, but these days you just had no idea what you would bump into, or how sharp its teeth would be. I accepted that a little discomfort was worth the safety. I grabbed my rolled up net and as I lifted my baseball bat the nine-inch nails hammered through it tore the fabric of the back seat. It didn’t matter. These days you run your car into the ground, then hot-wire the nearest one to you, and off you drive. Well … Caitlin hot-wires them for me.
There were two things in life I was never any good at: rolling joints and hot-wiring cars. Luckily, Caitlin was an expert at the one that helped us most.
In the past, this lane would have buzzed with conversation as drinkers filled the yards behind the pubs, smoking, joking and having a good time. Those days were long gone. Drinks were sipped at stolen intervals when people felt safe enough to let their guard down. There was no rhyme or reason to the portal openings, so anyone could be attacked at any time. And if you saw some of the things coming across into our world, you could understand why people might not want to take the risk.
I glanced at the phone screen once more and noticed the pulsing signal dart from one side of the grayish-blue line that represented this, the narrowest part of Greenwell Road. Had the thing heard my approach?
One of the huge waste bins behind The Dirty Bottles thumped as something struck the hard plastic shell. I gripped the bat tighter and prepared to swing. Another thud. My heart changed gear as I drew closer to the creature’s hiding place. The excitement unleashed a fresh burst of sweat on my forehead and across the back of my neck. I slipped the phone back into my pocket, raised my armored left arm and readied the bat for a downswing.
I paused at the corner, having no sense of the size of the creature I was about to meet, it could be small, or perhaps crouched, judging by the sound of its breaths. Then I attacked.
Sweeping around the bin I brought that nail-toothed baseball bat down on the creature’s head with a wet crack. I didn’t pull it back for another swing, however. I couldn’t, frozen as I was at the sheer horror of what had happened.
You see, Hell was made to imprison those damned to dwell there. The minerals it is constructed from, when embedded into weaponry, can be absolutely lethal when wielded against the intruders. Every now and then, when a portal opens, chunks of Hell tumble through. They exude the same radiation as the beasts, and our satellites pick up the same signal, showing the same readout on the SubDemon Go! app.
The little boy I murdered behind that bin must have found one of those fragments. I stared at him for a few moments in his beaten coat with the sleeves too long. He looked like a child wearing – not his father’s clothes – but perhaps those of an older brother. I pressed a boot against his torso and yanked the bat free of his smashed skull. I patted down his pockets and found the fist-sized fragment. Perfect for splitting and sharpening, this fragment would have plenty of uses. Not least of all, when my demons are injured down at the fights where Whittle colliery used to stand … it’s much cleaner to put them out of their misery with a bit of hell than to deliver blow after blow with the bat.
I returned to the car, keeping the gory end of the bat hidden from Caitlin’s view. “Just a fragment,” I told her. “We need to get moving. I need to win back some money tonight. We need to find something big in the next couple of hours.”
Caitlin frowned at me and pulled an earphone out of one ear. “What did you say, Dad?”
I sighed. “Nothing.”
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