The slow curve of a river had gouged a horseshoe shape into the boggy earth south of the bustling town. A mile to the north, a lake with the belligerence of an inland sea rested as though waiting for the pull of a stopper to release a deluge and reclaim its right. In summertime, the water levels dropped to transform the deeps to shallows and the shallows to gritty pebble outcrops. In the high summer, when the days were longest, only wending streams meandered between the bottomless pools which locals said were fed from the bog beneath. In autumn, the belly of the torrent became ever more swollen until, in late September as a rule, its waters broke and it spilled over the surrounding meadows and gushed toward the lower reaches of suburbia swamping drain and byre. Some years, the farmers spent October ferrying livestock to higher ground. In the rat grey days of winter the lake brooded under a duvet of cloud. The hours of daylight numbered less than seven and the town was an island between the heavyset giant water course to the north and the bloated encroaching flood plain to the south. In spring, the recession commenced a withdrawal as slow as the uprising was fast. In its wake, a soggy wasteland, an ooze of mud, the chronic scent of decay as the remnants of the depths were laid bare to the air. Then the warmth of the sun caked cracks in the soil and the spring daybreak mists revealed its enriched fecundity.
The waters birthed the town, a fording place of times long past, now a granite bridge to belt their waist at the narrowest point. They gave the town its identity, set it apart, and fed it with fish and in latter days with holiday makers. In return, the town gave the water the things it did not want, in the hope they would wash away downstream and to the ocean. It turned its back to the flow and excreted everything. In springtime, when the levels reduced, the things the town thought it had disposed of never to be seen again could sometimes be glimpsed strewn across the flood plain, only visible for a few days before a green carpet covered all their sins. Within weeks, a warm breeze would caress the hay before the slash of the scythe’s amputations reduced it to honey stubble.
One fact, known to any inhabitant of the town, but unknown to the picnicking day-trippers, the tanned and tall tourists who cruised leisurely and the visiting anglers, was that the flows fickle nature could exact a price. Perchance a body might be feeling sentimental and cross the bridge in the night. It would be a mistake to pause and lean over the parapet to see the glint of the town nightlife fleck the surface of the inky blackness. To peer down at the eddies and swirls to the lime green fronds dancing below the surface might upgrade such sentimentality to a morosity as deep as the water itself until the attraction of the murky underworld became magnetic.
Perhaps I would be there, staring up.
On occasion, the gods were not in the mood for such subtlety and brewed up a cocktail of wind and waves the height of which had no earthly right to be anywhere but the ocean. On these days, a small laden fishing boat was no place for a person who wished to see their children smile again. On rare days, in the basking calm of midsummer sunshine, folks would frolic in the shallows. They would lay out tartan picnic blankets and un-wrap tin foil packs of sandwiches to feast amid the high grasses of the callows. The local parents watched hawk-like as none could forget the one from their generation who went in but never came out. Armed with their knowledge and craft passed down, the townsfolk kept safe. A sunny day would also attract the children of the less wary and sometimes to places where the locals did not venture. The bottom was a mired minefield of sunken trees, their long dead branches clawing upwards. At the right angle with the encouragement of a gentle undercurrent a rotten branch could clamp a young ankle more tightly than a leg iron.
The river did not always give up its dead.
Rowan was born in the town a stone’s throw from the bridge. He was thirteen and in that year his heart was still a-quiver with the thought of breaking school for summer and spending his waking hours on the lush banks. A short time and a hormone storm afterwards, his attentions would be elsewhere but, right there and then, his idea of ecstasy was to sit on the bank. He ached to watch the tip of a fishing float bob along the surface, its movement more intricate and delicate than a prima ballerina, the choreography woven by the pull of current, the draw of a summer breeze and when the time was right, the tug of the unknown. He had spent the previous two months, as the evenings drew long, absconding from school, walking in his wellingtons knee deep in the post diluvian silt. It was here, just the last August, on a postcard evening that he had landed a Rudd like a gold ingot, a magical fish. His photograph had appeared in the local newspaper and his name was now in the record books. So he stood and carefully rolled balls of feed and gently tossed them to a spot around twenty yards out. As the ball exploded on breaking the surface, it sent a cloud of scented breadcrumb to the depths.
To me, the sweet scents conjured traces of ancient memory, of campfires and bread, of the time before.
His grandfather had told him that this spot was legendary as the deepest fishing hole in all the reaches of the regal waterway that gave the country its spine. Rowan was determined that, when the level was right , he would be there and what’s more, he had now reached the age where he would be able to spend all night. Having spent many winter nights absorbing angling books from the library he was well aware of the added benefit of the cover of darkness. The final hour before sun up was when everything was most alive. Even those things that lived in a different form began to stretch and prowl and feed.
On the second day of June, Rowan struggled along the path through the meadow. The path appeared every year, an unplanned meander which cut a swath through the tall grass. Whether humans or beasts created nobody knew, it simply appeared as soon as the growth was long enough and it guided all to the inlets and outcrops, over drains at their narrowest and shallowest. He carried a rod bag and a wicker creel, a flask and a bucket of bait. The scent of warm bread from the bucket danced with the honey and almond of the meadowsweet flowers. He was followed at a distance on the path by another boy. An older one, Steven, who pushed a barrow full of fishing tackle so heavy that the beads of sweat on his forehead tempted a chubby horsefly to lugubriously sink her mandibles between the freckles into the soft flesh just below his left eye.
Rowan glanced back on hearing the loud “Fuck!” emitted but quickly restarted his trek. Within five minutes he was there. The clearing in the reeds measured not more than five feet across. He gently laid down his load and began to set up. The first thing he did was dip a bucket full of crumb in to dampen it. Morsels of the bread took flight and drifted over the surface, across the shallows to the shelf where the steep drop brought the depth and the darkness and on further still to the abyss.
As the scent and the food drifted down to rest on the muddy bottom the snuffling fish disturbed my slumber. I had sensed it for a few weeks now, the hunting season was on the cusp. Amidst the detritus, deep in the silt and the rot and the bone fragments, my leathery skin stretched over my pickled organs. The fish pulsing around me were hungry after a long winter of nothing, the free offerings from above caused them to dart, their winter sluggishness replaced by ravenous excitement. Soon they would frolic and breed in the shallows, but now they would feed. I too felt a hunger.
Rowan sat in silence and surveyed the black mirror surface. Across the fields the sun was dying for the day, the amber ball cast long shadows.
“You took my swim you wanker.” The wheel of Steven’s barrow squeaked like a mouse in a trap, the swelling under his eye already looked volcanic.
“I’ve baited up here for the last month, this one’s mine.”
Steven lowered the barrow to the ground and approached Rowan from behind. As he did Rowan drew the pointed spike for his umbrella from his rod bag and ran his finger over the end. He turned toward Steven and drove it slowly into the soft earth, testing it for solidity. Steven smiled.
“Fair enough, I’ll be down at the rocks, you here for the night?”
“Ya, got a good feeling about this one, you?”
“Till I see the first cruiser in the morning, that’ll put ‘em down for the day then.” Steven was already trudging away.
“Give me a shout if you fancy a cuppa later.” Rowan called after him before setting about his task in earnest.
In the depths, the bait had now driven the fish into frenzy, heightened by the splash of more bait balls further downstream. I shook the mud from my carcass and moved nearer the surface, the shoal parted as I rose. The vibrations from the land that crackled through me piqued my appetite, the silhouettes on the bank shimmered in the half light. On the horizon, the golden disk was now drowning between the sky and the earth, transformed to an ochre ever decreasing semi-circle until its extinction. As it sunk further, Rowan baited his hook with a soft white bread flake. He lit the Tilley lamp. He quietly unscrewed the top from his flask and poured a dark sweet coffee. The scents of man, blunt and brazen, momentarily overcame the perfume of the meadows but then diluted on the breeze. He tossed another ball of bread crumb to his chosen spot. Splashes echoed along the ripples singing to him that Steven was doing the same. The soft crumb expanded on impact, an explosion of snowflakes drifting on the current. The fish frolicked in the blizzard like a shaken snow globe and picked off the tastiest pieces before they even hit the bottom.
I eased my way back down. The weight of my innards drew me to the deep; my skin tautened as I crawled along the mud, the creatures of the depths shied away until I slipped over the rim of the bog hole I knew as mine. It had been such since the night they had weighed me down and watched as my bound body sunk. It was before the span of the bridge, before artificial light flickered, a time when the rattle of machinery did not break the quiet. It was a time when groups of people banded together and did not move far from their place. It was no time to be different.
The flow was fast around the rocks of the ford, before man tried to tame the beast with locks and gates and weirs. The lake above the settlement gave way to currents below. To the south, lay a layered bog of turf pockmarked with holes unfathomable. In some places, the ooze of the bog had grown a toupee of roots and grass which wound around itself to create the illusion of solid ground. Nobody who ever slipped through this skin would return. When man played his controlling hand the bog was drowned, the fast stream convulsed into a languorous behemoth that slithered toward the sea, and the secrets of the turf lay hidden even deeper.
I was fifteen when they caught me, not much older than the boys whose vibrations from the banks ripped through my being. It had rained for two years. I lived with my father alone following the death of my mother. She died bringing me to the world. We were on the edge of the settlement, as near to the ford as we were allowed and as far from the others as was safe. Sometimes, when it was dark, I would walk the path through the mud and reed huts. The other families had groups of children. I was alone. Their features were dark and their hair long and matted. Mine was the colour of straw. It still is. My father said it was because my mother came from the North, far beyond the lake. Her people had been driven from their place and he found her alone and starving. The others in the settlement were wary and forced him to move to the edge. He cursed his bad luck in meeting her every day and pleaded with the gods to spare him the burden of the straw haired girl. The rains brought the flood level to the edge of the huts. It flowed through the crops and turned their roots to fetid soup. Something had to be done.
They came from the shadows. I felt them before I saw them. I tried to scream. Nothing came out. I fell to the earth when the first blow struck; the soil was soft and warm. My eyes caught the outline of my hut. My father stood in the entrance, turned his back. I swivelled around but was held by the wrists and ankles. The whole settlement was around me they chanted a prayer to the gods of rain, even the children watched as they hefted me up and carried me to the bog. I could not even wriggle. At the edge of the bog hole they lay me on the ground. They drove a wooden stake through the muck, hammering from above until it found purchase deep underneath. The knives were cold but not sharp. It took time to cut the tendons of my legs and arms. I stared at the wide eyes of a two year old in the arms of his mother. They said the gods of rain demanded a sacrifice to halt the downpour. They gouged deep chasms below my nipples. My blood flowed freely. I kicked out and caught one of them below the knee. The force was enough to make the others release and jump back. I struggled free and the circle widened. Their incantations were silenced. I tried to stand but their work was expert, my tendons severed. I flailed on the ground like an upturned beetle; the muck of the bog flew around me, my straw coloured hair turned dark like theirs. When I had nothing left their incantations began again, they bound me and tied me to the stake in the hole. As they weighted me down and eased me in I watched them all the way. Until the broth wrapped me up and the viscous earth sucked me to its breast.
I do not know what happened after but I must have slept for a long time. When I was awoken my bones were silt and my skin was cured like leather hide. My hair was still the colour of straw. I was awakened by a sensation. A long slithering black thing bared its teeth and was gnawing at my side. Without bones my movement is different. But I have strength. I wound my fingers around the eel and squeezed until it broke open. I move now like the eel itself moved. I shook myself from the mud and realized I was hungry, no, I was ravenous. I caught wisps of memory of the time before, of the knives and the stake. I surfaced from the mud and the stump of the stake was before me rotten and coated with moss and weed. The moss waved in a current. My eyes adjusted slowly until I realized I was underwater. I clung to the remnant of the post and held tight. I cried. I have never liked being alone. I stayed there for I know not how long, it could have been years, until, one day, the deep delivered to me her bounty. He was beautiful.
A scent drifted to me. It was heavenly. I released my grip on the post and found I drifted upward. I broke the surface to see lights brighter than my imagination. The settlement had grown; the bog was now in the depths. I slid under again and followed the scent, upstream. As I approached along the bottom I felt sensations I did not know existed. I found it best to slither along the mud as the other boneless creatures do. I came to an overhang close to the edge and there he was, in all his glory. His flaxen hair seemed drawn to the surface, his eyes were wide open as was his mouth, he looked about sixteen. His face bore a look of magnificent surprise. His right leg was wrapped in the weed and his arms were stretched above his head as though reaching for the sun. The night was by now taking leave and the light from the surface grew stronger. I eased around him, I found I could stretch myself in ways I thought not possible. I freed him and brought him back to my depths. I was no longer alone. When I brought him down to the mud I clung to him. We kept each other company through the warm currents of the summer, the cooling of the autumn when brown leaves floated down to blanket us and when winter came I dragged him deep into the mud to sleep in my arms. By the time the fish snuffled excitedly for food in springtime he had changed. His bones had turned to aspic, his golden hair was gone, he had melted away into the mud and I was alone again.
But not for long, most years the gods delivered to me a new darling, I sought them out in the lake above the town and the slower stretches below. I clung to them and sucked them hollow until the next year. Some years, when my hunger grew savage, I would hunt for myself. It gave me form, when I wrapped around them I subsumed them, I could feel the structure of their bones within me, I could not exist without that feeling. I could never be alone down there again.
It was, by now, a completely dark moonless night, although when Rowan tore his eyes away from the fluorescent tip of his float, a glance star ward displayed a carpet of jewels. He sat cocooned under his umbrella, arms wrapped around him as tight as a strait jacket. He could see the lights of the town in the distance and the low moan of country music floated toward him. The acrid scent of vinegar on chips brought saliva to his mouth just as he heard a muted splash.
“Steven, how are you doing?”
He called out, though his voice trailed off at the end of it as he did not wish to spook any fish and, more importantly, sound scared in front of Steven. There was no answer. A small wave lapped the toes of his waders, although he could discern no breeze. He calculated the distance to the edge of the town and stood up to gauge it. It was not far, perhaps half a mile, but that half mile at that time of night was a woeful place to his still young eyes. He settled back down.
“Keep it together Rowy boy.” He focused on the luminous green dot on the water. It bobbed under once and he tensed, coiled spring-like with his hand hovering over the rod. The float remained stubbornly still for long minutes after and he gradually relaxed and reminded himself how the fish loved to tease. He began to think of the beauty of his record Rudd and how there might be an even greater prize circling his bait but his reverie was disturbed by a rustle from behind, where the grasses stretched away into the darkness. He peered around the curve of his giant green umbrella but found only silence and the light of the stars. But not for long, another rustle, then a patter caused him to light his torch. His float on the surface was forgotten as he wondered what was behind him.
I drew on his line again dragging the light down for a moment to see if he responded, but he did not. So I slithered my way closer to the bank through the mud, up over the ledge to the shallows. He was now only feet away from me. At such close quarters, with his face lit by the lamplight, through the prism of the water, I could see the features of the little boy who watched my body torn and battered from the arms of his mother. He needed only to step in to be mine. But he turned away.
To Rowan’s ears the noise behind him grew louder and louder. The light from the torch in his hands cast dancing shadows as his hands trembled. He stood and moved from the safety of his umbrella, from the light to the dark. He swung the torchlight in a slow arc, expecting the sound to be silenced. From amongst the grass stubble the light glinted off little black beads, pairs of them, and the pairs numbered hundreds. As the light passed over the rats they paused then resumed their noisy foraging unfazed. Rowan sat back down again and smiled to himself. The life behind him and all around him carried on as it would whether he was there or not. He took a deep breath and poured himself another cup of coffee, although his hands were trembling as the liquid splashed in the cup. He settled back down and reeled in his line to check the hook. As he pushed the hook into the flake the pointed entered his thumb on the full.
“Jesus.” He muttered.
He cast his line out again hitting the precise spot where it settled before, set the rod down on the rests and waded into the shallows to rinse his wounded finger.
In front of me the hands wafted in the current, the fresh blood rinsing through my senses as I lay in the mud so close to him. Camouflaged amidst the weeds I reached for his hand. As our fingers touched I felt alive. I did not feel alone. Then he was gone.
Rowan shot bolt upright on hearing the sound, his hands dripping. A heart stopping scream cut through the night. This was followed by a stream of gut wrenching roars of agony, howls of pain.
“Steven!” He called.
There was no answer but the screaming continued, amplified by the darkness.
Under the surface, I too heard a sound of resurrected memories. I slithered downstream.
Rowan grabbed his torch and strode down the path, the rats scattered before him unseen. He broke into a run as the howling grew louder. Twice he stumbled and fell in the grass on the uneven ground and scrambled back to his feet. He burst into the clearing where Steven had set up his gear. It was a rocky inlet on the bank, an aberration in the wet land as though left from a different time. Steven’s gear was intact. Still the horrible screams continued and it was then that Rowan saw him. Steven was lying on his back. His body convulsed, his limbs shook as if they had independent life, his head moved back and forth as if he was having the prince of nightmares. A long drool of spittle roped from his mouth onto the rocks where he lay.
From the shallows I watched. The boy lay on the ground and struggled as I struggled before him. But he could not see his attackers. There were none save for those inside him. As I had been powerless on my back and waved my arms and legs before they bound me so he was waving. His eyes were wide open but unseeing. Mine at least had seen those who had done me harm. They had stood by and watched as I was taken.
Rowan rushed to him. He cradled his head in his arms. He pushed his fingers into Steven’s open mouth and pulled his tongue out. Steven coughed and spluttered but Rowan held him tight to him until the convulsions abated. They sat there holding each other until the sun peeked over the horizon and painted the world a different hue.
“You okay?” Rowan asked.
Steven nodded.
“Not as frequent as they used to be, hey, don’t tell my folks yeah, they won’t let me come night fishing if they think it’s back”
“No problem.” Rowan said as he walked back to his fishing spot.
“Hey Rowan” Steven called.
Rowan paused “Yep?”
“You’re still a wanker for taking my swim”
“Whatever.” Rowan smiled to himself as he strolled back to pack up his tackle. In the distance the first cruiser of the day rounded the bend going upstream. The achy throb of the diesel engine signalled the beginning of the day. Now would come the daylight hours, when only the smaller less wary fish would be snared, where inexperience and silliness could lead to disaster.
Steven waded in and scooped up handfuls of water to wash.
I watched him from below. As he leant his face was inches from mine. I was hidden, my skin the colour of the earth beneath me. I stretched myself around his calves as they sunk into the muddy bottom. I could feel his bones through the rubber and the skin and the flesh. My hunger gnawed at my bowels like rats at grain.
He moved his boots in the mud, struggled to release his feet from my grip. I stared into his eyes, I was close enough to kiss him.
His feet pulled away as I released them and slipped back to the depths.
Summer was only beginning.

Further Scenes

Posted: May 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

int. film set – day

Alfred directs. A motley film crew mill around. On set, Rita cowers behind a closet door, hides among hanging clothes. Tiffany waits, carving knife at the ready.


Remy, she’s hiding in there, the bitch who made you wear those flowery dresses, remember, look at the old hag-



She bristles.


Sorry mom, it’s the part. Right Remy, think of that heel ACTION!

In dim light Tiffany as Remy stalks into a Laura Ashley bedroom. Sniffs the air. Looks around. Plunges the knife into the mattress, again and again.

She picks up a rag doll and beheads it with one slash. Hears a whimper from the closet. Approaches the door.

She scrapes the blade of the knife on the door, a shrill sound like nails on a blackboard.

Rita passes a rosary beads through her fingers. Mouths prayers silently.


Remy throws a bookcase to the ground, ornaments smash.



Remy slices through the door like paper. She carves it up, pokes her head almost through. A crazy smile.


Heeerrrres Remy!

She tears the door apart. Stabs and slashes for all her might. Edmund’s blood packs splatter all over. From the bundle of clothes Granny/Rita rises up, covered in wounds.


Not so fast you little cunt.



Rita grabs Remy by the hair, swings her around.



They fall to the ground, Rita swings and bites, Remy slashes and kicks.



The camera woman fiddles with buttons but the camera keeps rolling. Edmund rushes over to help.

Rita is on top of Remy, falls on the knife and dies dramatically.


Get her off me!

She rolls from under Rita, who falls limp among the clothes.


Mom? What the hell were you doing?

There’s no response from Rita.



Tiffany is being nursed by Edmund, she has real cuts and bruises.

Alfred falls to his knees, cradles Rita in his arms.


God mom, I knew I shouldn’t have taken you out.

Gloria runs to him as he bursts into tears, rocks back and forth.


Is she-


Yes, and it’s my fault.

Suddenly Rita’s eyes open. She grabs him by the jacket.


Most fun I had in years son. She wasn’t gonna take me without a fight. You make this movie great. And you-

She addresses Gloria.


You look after my boy. If you don’t I’ll come back and haunt you till you can’t sleep a wink and those bags under your eyes won’t fit in carry on.

With that she collapses again.

The camera stops rolling.

Silence then sobs. From Tiffany.


Boss, she’s hurt, really.


Call an ambulance.

ext. hospital – day

Tiffany exits in a wheelchair. She has an arm strapped up, a band aid on her cheek.

She is greeted by a gaggle of reporters, flashing cameras and thrusting mikes.

A REPORTER pushes a recorder right up to Tiffany’s mouth.


Can you tell us exactly what happened?


OMG, I thought I was going to be killed. She came at me as though she was possessed. I know it was acting but it seemed so real, I tried to defend myself, it was horrible.


Are you aware people are saying the movie is cursed. The first one was and now it’s happening again. Care to comment on that?


I’m just glad to be alive.


Are you going to continue working on this movie?

Tiffany’s demeanour changes from victim to pretentious. She stands up from the wheelchair. As she does so a black car with darkened windows screeches to a halt.


I am a professional. This is a sacrifice I have to make for my art. I’m not afraid of anything. The Birthday Girl story will go on.

The car door swings open. Tiffany gets in and it speeds away.

int. car – day

Alfred drives, Tiffany sits in the back seat.


How did it go?

Tiffany takes the sling from her arm and stretches it. Slowly peels away the band aid to reveal a small scratch.




Alfred and Edmund look over script pages. Alfred scribbles furiously. Puts down his pen with a flourish.


The last scene.

Edmund reads the pages.


Fuck boss, how are we going to film this. That kind of set would cost/

Alfred scrawls an address on a scrap of paper.


Who said anything about a set. You bring some of those film school kids, ones you trust and meet me here, 3 AM. Ok?


Whatever you say boss.


Alfred, Edmund and Gloria observe an audition. A timid girl reads aloud, acts as though she is being stabbed.





It’s a whimper.


Gloria, show them how it’s done.

Gloria strides on stage.



She stands with her back to us. Stock still. Turns slowly. Her face changes into a mask of terror. Her hands crawl over her face, cover her eyes. Dramatically she drops them and emits



She screams like a banshee and collapses to the ground. A sobbing mass.

The crew clap. She stands up. Smiles. Bows gracefully.


Never lost it.


But Remy is sixteen.


I can do it, a bit of make up, lighting.

Alfred looks at the script. Won’t look her in the eye.


Let’s just look at a couple more. I have the perfect part for you doll. Professor Golden was just made for your talents.

Tiffany comes on stage, picks up the script. Her outfit showcases her not inconsiderable assets.



It’s a bodice ripping scream. She flops to the floor, limp as a doll. Alfred shuffles script pages.


Here, try this. From here.

He hands her an incredibly large carving knife and script.


You bitch! I’m going to-



He jumps up, grabs her by the shoulders. Madness in his eyes.


You are Remy, get it? You’re about to commit your first murder. You don’t want to spank this girl, you want to tear her to shreds.

He grabs a cushion.


FOR CHRISSAKE. This girl has made your life a living hell for the last five years. She got you kicked out of Cheer Camp for not smiling enough. You’re going to disembowel her. You’re going to send her pretty blue eyes to her Mom on top of two cupcakes.

Tiffany blanches, clearly scared.


Now pull yourself together and do this, you have one chance. To be HER. The scariest girl who ever fired up a chainsaw…

His voice trails off. He’s looking at a framed poster for the movie “Birthday Girl”. It’s Gloria as a teen and in full flow, a still life storm of flashing blades and blood and guts.

ALFRED (quietly to tiffany)

Now do it. Just think of something you hate more than anything else in the whole world. And kill it.

He hands her the cushion.

Tiffany steels herself, closes her eyes for a moment, then.



In a blur of motion she unleashes a furious assault. Feathers fly everywhere.

Alfred jumps back.

Edmund touches a crucifix on a chain round his neck.

EDMUND (to himself)


Alfred has to grab Tiffany to stop her.


Ladies and gentlemen. Meet Remy.

Gloria storms out of the room.


That was great. What were you thinking of?


Umm. The time I broke the heel off my favourite shoe.

int. bedroom – night

Tiffany, surrounded by script pages, is on the Net. Types in “Gloria Dean Actor”. We see the screen. A Wikipedia page. Photos of Gloria as a beautiful teen.

Actress. Best known for her lead role in schlock horror movie Birthday Girl and sequels. Married to Alfred Butcher, Film Director. Following the panning of the final movie in the series by critics Gloria Dean is rumoured to live in seclusion with her husband.

She clicks on a link titled “The Birthday Girl Curse”.

We read:

Four of the Birthday Girl series actors all died within 10 years of the first movie. Caroline Dunne, who played Danni in the first movie, died at age 22 after being murdered by her former boyfriend. Jimmy Redmond, the 60-year-old actor who played Henry in “Birthday Girl III,” died of stomach cancer diagnosed before he had accepted the role. Will Adams, 53 years old, who played the Bogey Man in “Birthday Girl,” died as a result of post-operative kidney failure. Tara Barry, who played the child Remy in three Birthday Girl movies died at the age of 12 of septic shock.



She scrolls down, finds a page on celebrity plastic surgery gone wrong. A picture of the Gloria today among others.

int. kitchen – night

CRASH! Alfred ducks a flying plate. Gloria has a tumbler of whiskey and plenty of ammo.


You fucking fuck!

Alfred hides behind the island unit. A mug narrowly misses his head.


Dollface it’s the only way.


Don’t dollface me you toad, I saw the way you were looking at her.

ALFRED (indignant)

I’m a professional. Baby, I need you in this movie, just not as Remy, she has to be -

He stands up, grabs a frying pan as a shield.



BAM! A plate hits the frying pan. He edges towards her.


You’re the best there is. If we do this right we’ll be able to make any movie we want, together baby. Go with me on this and the next one will be just us. We’ll pay the dough back and have enough.

Gloria toys with a plate decides whether to throw it or not. Softens.




You’ll be a star again.

Gloria smiles.

Then SMASH! The plate catches Alfred right over the eye. He falls to the ground and she is on top of him.


Oh darling! You’re bleeding.

Alfred is dazed, a small cut on his forehead oozes.


Here, let me fix that.

She swabs it. Straddles him.




OK DOLLFACE, this once we go for it. The next movie is mine, got it!

Alfred nods. Their lips almost touch. She leans to his ear.

GLORIA (whispers)

Prove you’re the man you used to be!

Alfred is frantic. Fights her to get on top. Wins.

Boxer shorts round his ankles, smoking jacket flapping over his bare ass, Alfred thrusts away on top of Gloria as she fake moans. Alfred’s face is almost purple with the effort.


yes yes yada yada

Gloria inspects her nail polish as he strives to finish what she started. No joy, he collapses in a heap.



She strokes his hair.


You just need to get back on top babes. You know it hasn’t been the same in a long time.


This one’s gonna be different. It’ll be just like the old days.

int. nursing home – day

Alfred visits his mother, RITA (83), bright eyed, dressed in a neat blouse and skirt. They sit on a bench in the garden.


It’s nice here mom isn’t it?


You think so?


Aw mom.

A buff young gardener catches Rita’s eye.

rita (playfully)

I suppose it’s not so bad.

An aged man totters by on a walking aid. Pauses, winks at Rita, tries to do an Elvis hip sway, falls over.


If you keep ahead of the zombies.


Same in here as out there.

He stares into the distance.


Might as well just tell me what’s bothering you son. I know you’re not here for the floor show.


Times have been tough. It’s a while since I had a hit and the money’s long gone. But I have a chance to get back, I need cash to do it and I don’t know where else to turn.

RITA (changes subject)

How’s my daughter in law.


She’s fine mom, still with me.

Rita touches the band aid on his head.


She’s a firecracker.


We’re still good mom. We work.


I know son. She’s the best thing ever happened to you. How much do you need?

He toys with a cup.


It’ll take around three to do it right, I know it’s a lot.

The gardener passes, muscles ripple as he pushes a barrow.


Woooeee! What I couldn’t get for three million.

She laughs.




Son, you’re gonna get what I have sooner or later anyway. I can’t lay my hands on that kind of money right away but if you give me a bit of time, maybe I can sell the old place and see what we can do? Just do one thing for me.




Get me out of here for a day or two. I want to eat a ribeye that hasn’t been put through a blender one more time.

She opens the top button of her blouse, fans herself dramatically as the gardener saunters by.


How do you feel about a cameo?

the next scenes…

Posted: March 5, 2013 in Screenplays, Uncategorized

int. home cinema – night

A home cinema lined with posters. A shelf displays awards, dusty and tarnished. Alfred sits in a plush velvet seat. Hits the pause button. On screen we see the still photo of Gloria in her youth.

A door opens, light floods in, Alfred pulls shades from his dyed jet black hair over bleary blue eyes.

Gloria shouts.

gloria (o.s.)



Be right there honey.

He pushes the door closed. Settles back.


He rises, makes a weak effort to tidy himself up before he exits to:

int. kitchen – night

Alfred’s kitchen was once grand, marble counters, top of the range appliances. The gleam has faded.

A girl, prim in a school uniform, pigtails, stands between two burly men who exude threat. This is BABY (12). She is in tears.


My poor child.

She moves to comfort her but the heavies step in her way. Alfred stands back.

heavy #1

Miss Baby is here about what’s owed.

alfred (to baby)

Your father said it would be OK until the end of the month.


Daddy’s dead. They found him yesterday at the bottom of our Koi pond.


Oh my God.

baby (wistfully)

He looked just like he was asleep…with the fishes.


My deepest condolences. If there’s anything at all I can do for you -

Baby’s demeanour changes, from grief to downright menace. She nods and Heavy #1 moves in on Gloria, grabs her manicured hand.


- as a matter of fact there is Mr film director. You owed Daddy dearest for that last piece of crap you made. He told me if anything ever happened to him I was to take care of business. One way or another.

The Heavy swipes a chunky diamond ring from Gloria’s finger. Hands it to Baby.


I’ll get it. I just need time.


Two hundred grand. How much time do you need. Why shouldn’t I just take what you owe me now?

She inspects the ring. Looks around the kitchen.


Or maybe everything here is as fake as this. Or her!

She tosses the ring in the sink. Reaches for a cheese grater but it’s too high up. Jerks her head at Heavy #1 who lifts her up to grab it.

BABY (to heavy#1)

Now hold her still! Let’s see how botox shreds.

Heavy#2 grabs Alfred before he can react. Heavy#1 pins Gloria’s face to the cold marble. Baby moves in, glides the grater, the smooth side, over her chiselled cheekbone. Gloria screams.


STOP! I will get your money and more. Please, in your fathers name. He never forgot his part in my movie.

Baby snorts a laugh.


You made him a zombie.


And he loved it.

Baby’s mood changes like the breeze. She becomes nostalgic, for a second.


He did.

Alfred senses an opportunity.


I promise you. Two weeks time. I have something big coming up. It’s a sure fire hit.

Baby considers this. She eyes Gloria like a hyena. Relents. Heavy #1 releases her, she falls to the ground. Baby looks Alfred right in the eyes.


Daddy always said never give a sucker an even break. But he liked you, used to talk like you were going to make him famous.


We did have some fun times.


One chance for Daddy’s sake.

With a flick of her pigtails she orders the heavies out, turns on the sink macerator as she goes, a horrible grinding sound from the machine covers Glorias sobs. Sparks fly from the sink and the room is plunged into darkness as fuses blow.

Alfred helps Gloria up. Holds her, strokes her hair, she is hysterical.


I’ll make it right.

int. bar – day

Alfred chews on an unlit cigar. He sits with EDMUND (55), looks like a nutty professor, unruly hair, steely eyes. A TV shows a dated movie.


Two weeks.


Man. How did Gloria take it?


Ah you know.


I haven’t seen her in so long. How is she holding up?


She won’t take many more dog days. I gotta get back in the game.


We’ll figure something out boss.



Waves to the barmaid. She flounces over. This is TIFFANY MILLS (21), aspiring actress, a blast of shiny teeth and dyed blond hair, more-than-a-little desperate looking.

Alfred looks her over. Likes what he sees. He gets a blank stare back. Edmund looks up at the screen. It shows the scene of the gym massacre from earlier.


Man, we weren’t bad.


Nobody could do a blood splatter like you.


They screamed like babies when the fingers started to move eh?

For a moment they are happy, engrossed, Tiffany is suddenly interested.


Are you guys like…in movies?


Allow me to introduce myself. Alfred Butcher, Slaughterhouse Films, and this is Ed McNamara, Mac The Knife to his friends, best special effects guy in the business.

Tiffany lights up like a Christmas tree.


Cool, I’m an actress, um, I’m working here to pay back my college loan until…

Her voice trails off.


Keep trying kid. It’s a tough business.


What films have you made?


Ever heard of Birthday Girl 1, or 2, or 3 or 4 or 5 or 6.

Tiffany scratches her head, then realises.


Ooooh, yeah those horror movies, my gram just loves them.

Alfreds face drops.

On the TV screen it’s the climax of the movie, the chainsaw is about to fall when. FLASH! The pale colour of the old movie is replaced instantly by a garishly bright ad. A creature claws it’s way through a swamp. IN THEATRES NOW. TYRANOPIRHANA 3D.


What the fuck!

Alfred sits back. A Eureka moment.


My friend, what do you know about 3D?


Well as a matter of fact, maybe more than you think. Since we got…quiet…I been doing some research. Took a few classes.

On TV the climax of the movie resumes.

ALFRED (gestures at screen)

Think you could do anything with that?


It costs.


Humour me.


Don’t see why not. Nothing’s impossible if you have the dough.

ALFRED (to tiffany)

Another round my dear. How would you like to audition for a movie?

Tiffany plants two doubles in front of them.


On the house.


Want me to round up the old crew?


Frankie the editor?


Retirement home.


Makeup Mary?


Married, last I heard she was hiking in Peru.



Edmund scrolls through contacts on his phone.


Leave it with me.

He makes a call on his phone.


John Burns please?

Alfred nods approvingly.


He did?

He shakes his head in disbelief.


My condolences Mrs Burns.

He hangs up.


You cannot be serious?


Last week. Alcohol poisoning.

Alfred blesses himself.


That makes five of the old crew gone to meet their maker.


I’ve an idea boss, you remember Lonny, she’s lecturing at that film school now. What say we pull in an old favour?


Nearly everyone we worked with is pushing up daisies. So yeah, how ’bout some new blood.

All the while Tiffany is as attentive as a new puppy. They get up to leave. She is crestfallen. Alfred passes her an address on a beermat.


Auditions Monday. 8 AM. Bring your loudest scream.

ext. school gymnasium – night

A window explodes as a fist punches through it to the outside. Flames lick the walls. Screams rend the air.

Fingers grasp. A chainsaw slices through the arm they are attached to. It flops to the ground, sizzles in the fire.

A girl, REMY MICHAELS, eyes dancing in a manic frenzy, cackles with glee as she creates a bloodbath.

Title credits roll. BIRTHDAY GIRL.


A still photo appears of a stunning girl with the caption


The screen freezes, paused.

int. kitchen – morning

A man stands with his back to us. He prepares a breakfast tray. A boiling kettle whistles shrill, he moves to the cooker to remove it.

He rustles in a cupboard, extracts a loaf of bread, inspects it. Trims the hard edges off with a knife and pops a slice in a toaster.

He opens a fridge. It is almost empty. He takes out a packet of bacon, sniffs it, nearly falls over. He bins the bacon, finds two eggs and quickly scrambles them on a pan. He puts the toast and eggs on the tray.

He turns toward us. This is ALFRED BUTCHER (59), horror film maker, hard faced softened by good living. He’s Hugh Hefner without the money, wears a tatty smoking jacket, boxer shorts and slippers.

He lifts the tray, exits, moves through a hallway. A half wilted bouquet of flowers droops from a vase on a hall table. He picks up a wad of brown envelopes from inside the door. Beside the vase a mound of brown envelopes remain unopened. He adds the wad to this.

He pauses, selects the bloom with most life, pops it into a glass on the tray. Proceeds up a grand but worn staircase.

Framed posters line the wall beside the staircase. They are for a series of films. The first one proclaims:

Birthday Girl!

The film that will make you wish you’d never been born!

The picture on the poster is that same beautiful girl from the opening scene.

He proceeds up the stairs. We see the posters for sequels. The girl on the poster gradually ages. In the final one:

Birthday Girl 6! Ultimate Revenge!

The girl is a woman in her thirties. Her face is contorted by plastic surgery. She holds a head dripping gore from a severed neck in one hand and an axe in the other. A school is in flames behind her.

Alfred gently opens a door.

cut to:

int. bedroom – day

The room is in twilight. Alfred lays the tray on a bedside locker, opens the curtains only a little, sun rays stream in. The room is unkempt.


Happy birthday dollface.

There is a person in the bed, only her hair is visible, the duvet is pulled way up.

Alfred sits on the bed.


C’mon baby, it’s a special day, time to rise and shine.

Slowly he eases the duvet down to reveal GLORIA (42), aging gracelessly and held together with plastic surgery.

She’s the same woman from the posters but time has taken a toll. Her mouth is upturned in a joker-like grin, her eyes full of sadness. She sits up.


I haven’t shone in a long time.


Ah honey don’t be like that.


Breakfast in bed?


It is your birthday.

He strokes her hair back from her eyes.


My god you’re beautiful.

She drops her head.


Ha! You’re the only one who thinks so. I haven’t had a role in seven years.

He pulls her into an embrace. Holds her tight.


Just waiting for the right one babes. Things are different these days. We’re still good though, yeah? We’ve got through worse.

She pulls back.


We need something soon, I can’t take much more of this.


I’ll make something happen, I always do don’t I? Now eat your breakfast before it’s cold.


I’ll be down soon, you go ahead.

She forces a smile as he puts the tray on her lap. Alfred exits and she puts the flower to her nose, inhales the scent.

We see a photograph of her in a pose of youthful beauty.


Posted: October 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

At the age of five Terence was sent to fetch milk and found himself tempted to steal a chocolate bar. He stood sweating and shaking, the milk in his hand. The impulse pushed him so hard and his inner sense of right struggled so much with it that a trickle of urine dribbled down from his short pants, forming a pool around his buckled sandals. He shook so much the bottle fell and shattered on the tiles. He could feel the heat on his leg and smell the stench. His mother was red faced as she changed his pants. As he grew he felt impulses as all boys do. His reaction was always to fight them, whether they were healthy or unhealthy. Eventually he couldn’t tell the difference. He went to school alone, ate lunch alone and came home alone. He didn’t read or watch movies or have an interest in sport. He never drank. When he was in his late teens his mother left home, leaving him alone. She said she needed to be free and to have some fun in her life.

He avoided women because of the temptation. He avoided children in case he felt a temptation, though truth be told he never did. He avoided men because of the things they said and did. He left school with average grades and a perfect attendance record. It was this single thing that allowed him to get the post of night watchman at the local light bulb factory. At night he walked around the silent factory as though it were his kingdom. He liked to do so in the darkness. During daylight hours the factory hummed with life. Three hundred women and girls filed in through the gates to start shift at eight-thirty am. They filed right back out again at five-thirty pm.

The night watchman, whose full name was Terence Birtles, started shift at six pm and finished at seven-thirty am. Mostly the girls on the factory floor did not even know he existed and to any who did he was known as Batty Birtles, probably because of the way he walked soundlessly, possibly because of stories of him flitting around the factory in the dark of night. Terence brought sandwiches and a flask to his hut at the gate, timing his arrival for just after the day workers had gone home. He made his rounds three times nightly like clockwork. He saw how each worker organised their little space, a personal touch here or there, a snapshot of a loved one. Terence had a key to every lock. He knew that the stationery store could be locked from the inside and sometimes was used for more than storage. He knew what had gone on in there that day when he stood for a little while in the dark room and sniffed the air. He never let himself spend too long in there.

One autumn night Terence walked into the security hut to be met by the HR manager and a woman.
“I’m Grace.” she said.
He shook her hand and as he did her expression changed, she withdrew hers and when he looked away she wiped it on her skirt. Terence could feel the sweat begin to gather in his armpit.
“Right, Terence, Grace is here to study how we do things. Time and motion studies, that kind of thing, I’ll leave you to chat.” the Manager said as he left.
Grace crossed her legs and even with his eyes glued to the floor Terence knew she had sheer nylon tights covering shapely legs
“I’m glad he’s gone.” Grace unbuttoned her suit jacket and slung it over the chair. “I know it seems intimidating but honest to God all I’m here to do is look at working methods and suggest efficiencies. I’m sure we’ll get on fine, you and me. Now, do you have a kettle here?”
Terence got up and put the kettle on. Her relaxed manner caught him off guard and he found himself unusually at ease.
He kept his back to her as he made the tea and couldn’t remember the last time he had been alone with a woman apart from his mother. He focused his mind on the task at hand and that seemed to help.
“You can stop stirring now.” Her voice had a hint of a laugh.
He turned back and for the first time looked at her as he handed her the steaming mug. She sat cross legged, her skirt an inch above her knee. She was small, brown haired and her face was the shape of a heart. She pulled her skirt over her knee.
“Thanks. Right, next Wednesday I’ll spend a few hours with you as you do your job, and we’ll see where we go from there. Is that all right?”
Terence nodded as she passed him back her mug.
“Ta ra. So see you next week. Relax we might even have fun. You never know.” And she was gone.
Terence sat alone and smelled the air. He sat where she had and the seat was still warm from her. He sat there for a long time. He didn’t go on any rounds that night. The next day he slept fitfully. When he walked in the park he walked past people without even noticing them.

The next evening when he got into work an email alert was flashing on his computer. He held his breath as he clicked open.
From: Human Resources
To: Employee number 297
Subject: Work Assessment
Work study postponed until Friday at 5pm
Ms. Grace Goodyear
He looked over the email and then he printed it. He made himself a cup of tea using the mug that she had used as he pondered the meaning of the message. He liked the use of the word “Yours”. He didn’t object to her use of his employee number rather than his name as he knew she was the ultimate professional and would always be professional in her business dealings even if both of them knew better. She had used the title Ms which he knew was a message to him that she was available and eager. In summary, he could not have been happier had the email been delivered by Cupid himself in a bouquet of roses.
At home he looked at himself in the mirror. He was surprised. He used to only glance at the mirror, afraid that what he saw would reveal something dark and dangerous. Now he saw a smiling face with a twinkle in his eye. He calculated there were 1800 minutes from then until he would see her again. 108,000 seconds. He sat in his armchair and counted.
By five-ten pm on Friday evening he was standing in the centre of his office. Then she breezed through the door. He looked at his watch.
“Hello,” he said.
“Right, let’s get started.” She sat at the desk without looking at him and opened a laptop.
“Would you like some tea?” he said.
“So what do you do first when you get in?” Her finger was tapping the desk as she looked at him over bifocals. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail.
“Okay, okay, they said you were a bit… why not just show me? I’ll go around with you and make notes; you do what you always do.”
She clicked the stopwatch. Terence was frozen to the spot for a split second then shook himself out of it. He pulled on his tunic over his new shirt and began to button it up.
“That’s better,” she said.
He thought he heard a smile creep back into her voice. Maybe her hard-ass approach was all part of the act. After all, it wouldn’t do if she was seen to be fraternising with him during work hours. He remembered hearing that women could be wily in the ways of love, before he stopped listening to the things men said about women. She stood up and patted down her suit. He looked down as she did, noting the open top button and the triangle of milk-white skin it revealed.
“What are you waiting for?” She tapped the watch. “Time is money.”
He shrugged. If this was the game he would play along. He picked up his keys and they left the hut for the short walk to the factory. A short walk, but he wished it would never end. She walked across the car park just ahead of him and he couldn’t help but notice the sway of her hips. He was sure this was her hidden signal to him.
“I’m yours. I said we’d have some fun. I hope you’re enjoying our little game. You’ve just made it to level two. Congratulations.”
When they got to the factory door, the keys jiggled in his hand as he leant across her to unlock it. He caught the scent of her perfume. That confirmed his suspicions. The voice in his mind said, “Hey fool. You don’t think she puts that on every day for any old occasion.”
He managed to open the door and hold it for her, as she clicked her stopwatch and made a note on her palmtop.
“Okay the first round is the factory floor. I usually go this way.”
They walked in through the double doors to the factory. Moonlight trickled through the roof windows.
“So show me what you do, please.” she said.
He walked along the line checking each workspace. As he did she clicked the stopwatch repeatedly. After a few minutes he began to enjoy the noise of the clicking. It became the beat of their song. He even began to check things for real. When they reached the end of the factory, she said, “Forty seven minutes. Not bad.”
He stood in front of her.
“You could do it quicker though.”
He was sure she smiled as she said that, though he didn’t look.
“Next we check the stores. It won’t take as long,” he said.
They walked through to the stores. The hair on the back of his neck bristled. He detested this place. His face began to burn. Bare breasted beauties beckoned from the notice board over each desk. He turned away.
“I…I..I’m sorry about this.”
She clicked her watch.
“What are you talking about? Get on with it, will you? I’ve not got all night to fart about with you.”
He kept his eyes to the floor as he checked each space and the door. He glanced up to see a page three girl smiling at him. He felt a long forgotten feeling in the pit of his stomach. He hurried through the rest of the stores.
“Okay, much faster here, but I think you missed a couple of things.”
He was glad to breathe the air of the offices when they finally got out of the stores.
“This is the last round of the evening. I check all the offices to see the computers are off and doors are locked and everything is as it should be.”
“Sounds right, let’s do it.”
Something about the way she added “please” made him relax. More than that, it made him think she wanted him. She wanted him so much. Badly.
“What’s in here?”
“The stationery store. It’s usually okay,” he said.
“Let’s have a look.”
He took out the keys but paused.
“What are you waiting for? Let’s finish what we started.”
The door opened and she walked in ahead of him.
“Looks fine to me.”
When she turned around he was standing in the doorway. Sweat was pouring down his face, a patch of dampness spreading on his slacks.
She clicked her stopwatch.
“R-right..I think I’ve enough to work on.” She pushed past him. “I’ll make my own way out.”
He didn’t turn around. He heard the doors of the factory close behind her. He locked the room and stayed there in the blackness.

A wee bit of horror

Posted: September 13, 2012 in Uncategorized


To clear the mind for this project it became necessary to know the enemy in order to prepare to fight it. Unflinching, Zander faced the indictment of the full length mirror on the back of the washroom door, naked from the waste up, no effort to straighten up, slouched, he looked from top to bottom surveying the middle aged spread, the generous unused love handles, the three day old varicose bruising around his left nipple, turned his back to the mirror craning his neck to see tonight’s damage. Five long welts snaked down his back diagonally from the bulb at the base of his neck to his arse which had in the last year begun to succumb to gravity. He swabbed the cuts with spittle damp toilet roll, his gnarly face flinching. His eyes stung from lack of sleep and three nights of oncoming headlights. He knew now what he had to do to beat this thing.

He picked his white bloody t-shirt from the tiled floor and ran the water into the sink washing it as best he could, a job not made easy by the pushbutton tap, wrung it dry as best he could and held it under the hand dryer. It was still damp and sticky when he put it back on, the red stripes coming through the white cotton. He covered this with his donkey jacket, swished cold water on his face and made his way back into the all night café. A drunken couple slobbered over each other in a booth, the only customers. Zander was sure they would never recognise him again. The single waitress though was a different proposition. He considered leaving until he caught her looking at him from the corner of his eye so he took a stool at the counter and ordered a coffee. Why did she have to look? He could feel the heavy wool of the jacket eating into the scrapes on his back through the light cotton shirt. The pain soothed him. He stretched his arms onto the counter flexing his shoulder blades to open out the gashes, the fibres of the jacket burrowing in so that the stings multiplied along his back. Easing back he grimaced as the infliction focussed his mind on the task to come. The waitress wandered over, chewing gum as if her life depended on it and, he thought, maybe it did.

It had taken him precisely three days earlier as dawn gloomed through his bedroom window. A fitful night ended when he sat bolt upright. Thirty two years of normality erased in a blink. Zander didn’t know why it took him then or why it delayed so long to do it and then he didn’t know how to fight it. When it had him he had only a single compulsion. As his wife wriggled under the pillow her hand had crept from under the covers clawing at his chest until he used his bulk to make her still so that the only movements were jiggling nerves. He got up from the bed and dressed while her muscles flickered. Across the landing his twin two year old daughters slept the sleep of angels in a room of little ponies. Zander and the enemy stood in the doorframe inhaling their shallow breaths. The pain in his left breast allowed him to turn away closing the door softly behind him before easing his car into the morning torrent. An inkling on how to fight it. Three days ago. Since then he drove until he had to stop.

Zander and the enemy stopped twice in three days. Souvenirs of the last stops filled the trunk of Zander’s Volvo. The ad said the trunk was large enough to take two sets of golf clubs. Yesterday’s town was somewhere north of the centre and he stopped because he had to eat and piss, even though he had no senses now the enemy had him he still had to fuel both himself and the Volvo, it would not allow him not to and now the pain around his nipple was gone it was savage in it’s compulsive demands. He knew he had to stop it in that town. It gave him no choice but Zander saw an opportunity. The car park beside the supermarket was dry as ashes in the August afternoon. A young mother bundled children and shopping into her SUV and reversed without looking, unable to see Zander on his knees beneath her rear wheels. Zander could see the end of this. But the enemy had not yet taught him the rules of the game. As the wheels reached his head a drill punctured his brain releasing a marching band inside his skull and he convulsed in the dust like a severed worm, the enemy towering over him. Flor jammed on the brakes catching a glimpse of the squirming epileptic on the ground. Her peach shaped face awash with concern peered down at him Zander who noticed a dimple in her chin pursing while he pushed the blade up until it hit her breastbone. Her blood puddinged in the dust when the enemy was silencing the souvenirs and stowing them in the trunk. Zander felt a pain in his ribs where Flor’s knee impacted as she collapsed but it wasn’t enough.

Three hundred and two miles later the enemy stopped to pick up a hitchhiker, a blonde Aussie girl on her world tour the cheap way. She wore a healthy tan like a badge. Blue jeans faded from washing, a Jimmy Hendrix t shirt and well worn Converse runners. She bounded into the passenger seat flinging a rucksack in the back and flashing a smile of thanks to Zander. He nodded as he swung the car back on the road. She was instantly comfortable, flicking on the radio and tapping out a rhythm on the dashboard with her long nails. The road was busy for a stretch. They passed strip shopping malls, churches with neon signs, golden arches, and motels as the sun became a tangerine bow on the horizon. Zander relaxed into the rippling music and her nasal voice. She was filing her nails with her feet up on the dashboard when the enemy pulled over on a road which made a scar through miles of sunflowers. As he grabbed her throat Zander made sure her hands came around him, her freshly hewn claws digging through his t shirt raking down his back. The searing pain was a boon, he eased back releasing his hands from her neck. She gurgled as her eyes rolled in her head. The enemy pushed her into the trunk.

At the next lit up spot on the road Zander pulled into an all night café pushing his back against the seat until he could feel the throbbing of his heart against the worn leather. He walked into an unremarkable café. Adequate lighting and expressionless décor accompanied by low country music. He went directly to the washroom passing a gum chewing waitress.