A fresh, innovative, irreverent view of strange people and exotic worlds
Thursday, 12 June 2014
And another one bites the dust...
Alyce shivered, crossing her arms across her chest to pull her coat closer.
It was fifteen past curfew and the night was drawing in. The shadows had darkened beyond black and the streets were empty. No-one here. Just Alyce and a thousand demons.
The city-wide death spree had only begun three weeks ago but the regularity - the total had risen to eleven bodies already - made it impossible for the police to keep this series of deaths a secret. And the rumour was that they had no idea how to stop it.
And so the Crown declared a state of emergency. And ordered the police to impose a curfew. But the problem with curfews was that since only the law-abiding obeyed them, Her Majesty’s Finest automatically assumed anyone still on the streets after ten was up to no good.
Which meant that Alyce was in trouble.
The man following her hadn’t shown himself yet. He was too good for that. But she knew she’d got a follower.
Okay, she’d been foolish. And maybe the store detective had been right about it not being normal to wear three layers of clothes - even in October. Especially when they’d still got security tags fixed to them. But, no. She didn’t want to wait to discuss it with the police. No, thank you, ma’am.
And didn’t her nose bleed a lot?
Alyce bent forward, peering around the edge of the door-well into the alleyway. No sign of anyone. Unless he’d ducked into another doorway like she’d done. Although, if he’d been police, he’d have walked right up to her and tasered her. And he’d have not been alone. Her Majesty’s officers always went everywhere in groups. Even they were afraid to be out after dark. After all, there was a killer out there!
She levered herself out into the alley, instinctively creeping away from the light of the high street, seeking a way home that wouldn’t put her at risk from from being arrested by the curfew guard.
And a few moments later someone else followed her.
The back-streets were quiet but not entirely silent; the few people still stirring, hiding out of view but not out of earshot. It was a gamble, the curfew guard usually made enough noise to wake anyone not already sound asleep, but once in a while they crept up on night time prowlers to catch them rather than scare them away. Although, they rarely patrolled the side streets. There were just too many and only a few guardsmen.
There was an open doorway to the left halfway up the next alley, a fan of yellowed light spreading out across the way. Alyce hurried for it, deciding that this had to be a better option than waiting for her follower to catch up with her. She craned her neck around the jamb, saw the storeroom beyond it was unoccupied and slipped inside, closing the door behind her.
Once inside, she began to relax. It looked like she’d found her way into some sort of electrical store; there was rack after rack of unidentifiable technical MacGuffins, all of them cob-webbed together with enough cables to reach halfway to the moon. Stepping idly between them, she noticed a desk with a chair in front of it and a computer on top of it at the focus of it all; the monitor screen rolling with line after line of text marching down it, the only fixed section being a box with a “Command?” prompt and a row of numbers above it.
She sat down, captivated by the screen. What was it doing?
The door slammed hollowly, the wild-haired man she’d seen before advancing on her with his arms outstretched. “Welcome. Welcome,” he said, his eyes fixed on hers. “I was hoping another volunteer would find me tonight.” He reached around her, bent over the keyboard, keyed in a single word - Execute - and then hit ‘Return.’
Alyce’s stomach flipped and the light turned grey, the strange man backing away curiously. He then left. And then came back, moonwalking again, his pace speeding up.
She stood up, feeling strangely remote. Seeing herself still sitting in place. Ageing while she watched. Watching as she stood unsteadily and then staggered to the door, her body stooped and her face now lined and liver-spotted.