Available on Amazon, wherever you are.
The Dude in the Hat
How to Tickle a Zombie
The Convocation of Planets
The Hole in the Fence
The Bogie Man
Hiding Behind the Sun
The Eternal Circle(squared)
Last in, First Out
My Life as a Crisp Packet
The Unknown Warrior
Sample - Hiding Behind the Sun (full short story)
Hiding Behind the Sun
Having a finger chewed off hurt. It seemed like a no-brainer of a statement, but most people don’t know what it’s like to have a finger chewed off. Not bitten, in one chomp, but chewed. Savoured.
Maybe someone, somewhere has had a finger bitten off in a bar fight. Maybe in a pub called the Railway Tavern, or the Red Lion, or the King’s Head. The name of the bar’s probably not that important to you if you’re bleeding and hurting and just coming to realise through the pain that you’re going have to figure out a new way of doing certain things.
It happens. People get things bitten off from time to time. In the kind of fight where small fragments of glass are left in the eye after surgery, it’s not unheard of for a finger or a nose or an ear to find its way down into the sewers in a roundabout and through the backstreets kind of way.
You don’t have fingers gnawed upon in ordinary circumstances because you just wouldn’t sit still for long enough for someone to nibble, but Frank Harding really loved his brother, and really, once you’d fed your own brother even the smallest part of your flesh, what did the rest of it matter?
Most of the world had turned by now, and out here on the island rock it was just the two of them, Samuel and Frank, and at the heart of it, Samuel was always more important and would be ‘til the end. He was a star, for Christ’s sake, a bona fide fucking star.
Frank watched, fascinated, as Samuel chewed at the finger. He didn’t get through the bone. Bones are pretty tough to bite through with human teeth. You need to really crunch down with the molars. The incisors or the canines just aren’t up to the job. Frank knew molars would do the job, because with a little coaxing Samuel had already taken most of the fingers of Frank’s left hand clean off.
The coaxing had been necessary, because when Frank looked at his gnawed fingers sticking out of his mangled hands he felt a little queasy. Like his flesh was those kind of fingerless gloves people wore because they wanted to able to use their fingers on a cold day, though your fingers just froze anyway.
Frank wanted to save his right hand for a while. He figured he’d give up his feet next, then his legs. He could sort and snort with one hand. He’d have to. He loved Samuel, but being eaten was fucking painful, whichever way you looked at it. The coke helped a fair amount, and Samuel had a good stash of it. It’d see him through ‘til the end. There was enough there, if he wanted to end it right now, he could. He wouldn’t, though, because then he’d lose and he’d been losing to Samuel all his life. It was time to be a winner. If you couldn’t be a winner at the end of the world, then the way Frank saw it, you may as well have never lived. Coming last in a football game, there were twenty-two people on the pitch. Come last in a race, there were maybe eight lanes on a track.
Come last out of two, that’s proper losing.
Frank jammed the stripped finger into Samuel’s chattering mouth and worked it round to the side until Samuel took the index finger off, through the bone. Frank slipped and got his thumb in there, too, and Samuel took the tip right off, up to the first knuckle, through flesh and bone alike, taking the nail away.
Frank might have screamed a bit, but when he came too he snorted a little coke and sprinkled (poured) a large amount on the leftovers of his thumb.
People don’t really know, but cocaine is licensed for medicinal use. Doctors use it to constrict the blood vessels in the nose in recurrent nosebleeds.
Frank knew that kind of thing because he was a writer. He researched. He took his time. He got things right.
Samuel was a writer, too, and if the bastard had done five minutes research in his whole life Frank’d eat his own fucking hand.
But he did love him. Kind of. In the sort of way that was right next to hate. Like neighbour’s who greet each other each morning on the way to their separate cars in separate driveways and call each other cunts to their wives who tell them not to use that word, but they use it just the same.
The pain from his thumb hit him again, like the pain had just realised it was forgotten. Then he figured maybe it was closer to hate, in as much as he was thinking at that point.
The pain wasn’t uniform. It came in waves, a bi-polar sort of agony, cycling really fast. Up, down, up up up into hypopain, then a lull. It went that way for a while, but Frank had no way to tell the passage of time.
To compare the pain of being eaten to anything was pointless. It wasn’t like a paper cut. Being kicked in the balls hurt pretty bad. Stepping barefoot on a plug. Things like that, ordinary people could get. They could relate to it.
Being eaten’s a little different.
Strangely, the bone didn’t hurt. Maybe, Frank figured, there were no nerves in bones. Maybe it was the coke. Maybe it was the fact that after the rest of the fingers had gone, his definition of pain had changed.
Crunch, and that thar’ thumb, there it was gone. No more space bar for him.
Gone done bone, he thought for a second and giggled. Fuck it. Bone didn’t rhyme. He didn’t care.
Yes. Yes, he did. He cared because of the two of them, Samuel would’ve made it work. Maybe Gone Don Bon.
No. Fuck. That/Too/Do/Suck.
You can think like that, like it’d look on a page, when your brother’s eating your fingers and you’re looking forward to feeding the rest of yourself to him, little by little, just to punish yourself further for always hating the smarmy bastard.
Samuel, winner. Frank, loser.
Writers both, it was Frank that won all the prizes, but lived alone in a townhouse in the city.
Samuel wrote shitty horror novels that sold by the thousand, ten thousand, then a hundred. He lived the life out on this tiny island off the east coast of Scotland, in an honest-to-God castle.
What better place to escape the madness that heralded the end of the world? Just step off the edge, onto a private yacht, sail away across rare still Scottish seas to the bare outcrop of rock that was the sum of the Harding Estate.
Frank had seen the post. Harding Estate. That was the first line of the address.
Frank was good with words. Frank got the words, Samuel got the women. Weird freak women who liked to dress up like zombies and vampires and werewolves and did some weird freak shit in bed with Samuel.
Samuel Harding, bestselling author. Three books made into films, four optioned. A hit television series. He’d written the scripts himself.
Who was winning here, though, right now? The eater, or the eaten? Who’d give out first?
It was the kind of thing Samuel would’ve written about. Frank could see the tag line – EAT OR BE EATEN!
That was funny.
“Funny bunny fuck me honey...FUCK fucker!”
Samuel took a chunk out of Frank’s calf right through his jeans. He wasn’t ready to give up his legs.
Fuck it. Who cared? He could feel the change coming over him. The whole world had turned to zombies. They’d lasted longer than most. Maybe Frank was the last man in the world still sane, but he was long infected now. Sanity wouldn’t last long.
Game on, he reckoned, and took a fair hit of coke, then a bit more, and more still, because Samuel was really getting into the spirit on things with his calf.
Who’d last longest?
Did it even matter?
This all seemed like a good idea when Samuel had changed. All of a sudden it didn’t seem so smart anymore.
Half the world had turned fast and gorged. Before the news had stopped altogether, the zombies had already begun to turn on each other.
If dad had still been alive he could’ve said Pop Will Eat Itself.
But that sucked, too.
Fuck. He didn’t know if it was the coke or being eaten, but he couldn’t come up with anything clever at all.
The human race, out there in the wide world, was feasting on itself. Like Ouroboros, I’m yum yum yummy in my tum tum tummy. But the macrocosm outside didn’t matter even a tiny bit anymore, because Samuel was now down to the bone (Tibia, Fibula, Frank’s mind dragged up), making satisfied lapping noises on the blood.
Frank poured coke right into his leg, but it didn’t really touch the bleeding. That shit was venal. Not arterial, because Frank was a writer, and he knew shit like that. It wasn’t spurting, not yet.
Samuel, lapping, chomping.
Frank, pain fading, hunger growing.
It wouldn’t be long now. The hunger would take everything. The thoughts would stop. There would be nothing but to feed.
One would eat the other.
Before the news ended, there was something else, too.
Left with no one else to eat, the zombies started in on themselves.
Whoever’s head start that counted as, and Frank really couldn’t tell anymore, he wanted to win. Just once. Cocky fucking Samuel. All out winner. Every book, a winner. Every chick, a dinner. Every dick, a...fuck...flimmer...glinner...
The coke, that’s all it was. And the pain.
Changing. Thoughts floating away. Gnawing in his guts that had nothing to do with anger and jealously or zombie Samuel.
It was the end of the world. Hand, half his leg – his foot flapping loose beneath a flesh-bare shin – gone.
Was he really going to let his brother win one last time?
Always in his shadow. Always losing to him. Had it ever done him any good, hiding behind the sun?
No. It did him no good at all. End of the world, he should’ve shot himself, jumped into the sea, tossed off on Jordan’s corpse or something.
Jesus, Frank. You’re such a cockerel cocker spaniel coq au vin cock.
He tapped Samuel on the shoulder. Samuel looked up, kind of quizzical, but in a dumb way like a cow taking an exam.
Frank pulled his brother up so they were face to face. Frank had to lean it, too, because the chains that held Samuel back weren’t quite long enough for kissing.
Once, long ago, a Sammy. A little boy Frank’d idolized while they’d played at being cowboys or spacemen or Norsemen. He thought about that somewhere way down deep while he pulled Sammy to him with one fingerless and slick and tingling hand and the other strong and determined. Samuel snapped his blood stained face toward him. But Frank held tight, squeezing. Snarling, too, but he didn’t realise just how close their expressions were. Not anymore.
“I hate you,” he told his idiot brilliant brother. Kissed him on the cheek and then took a passionate bite out of his face.
Didn’t taste so bad. He forced himself to chew though he wanted to gag.
Blood pour downed his Sammy’s face but no pain registered. Frank found that somehow far more upsetting than the shitty taste of his brother’s face.
Frank’s hands slipped in the blood.
He had time to swear just once more before Samuel’s hungry mouth dipped in and tore out Frank’s throat. Blood sprayed across his vision, and he couldn’t tell if it was in his eyes or on Samuel’s face anymore. Arterial, he thought, kind of mentally nodding to himself.
Frank bled out his bitter life while he chewed on a strip of cheek that really didn’t taste like chicken at all. It tasted a hell of a lot like humble pie.