Thursday, 17 February 2011

Inner Demons: A Victorian Horror Story

*Disclaimer*-The contents, characters and concepts of this story, unless otherwise states or blatantly obvious, are the sole property of yours truly.

Inner Demons

By Laurence Williams

When a person sees a city, they see a number of things. A home. A sanctuary. A place of safety. A threat. A prison. This was certainly the case for a lot of people. For James however, London had become a wasteland. A city cast in almost total darkness, helped little by the torches carried by him and his men. And yet, on the outside, everything about the soot-covered streets seemed perfectly intact. No signs of destruction , or violence. Indeed, no sign of a struggle. Nor indeed was there any sign of life, aside from the green-jacketed riflemen who advanced in skirmish order down the deserted streets, fearfully checking over their shoulders at each step. They were on edge, and who could blame them. They had come to the capital of their nation, to find the streets deserted, the people missing, and who knew why? They were men of the 19th Surrey Volunteers, the Rifles. No amount of training could have prepared them for the eerie atmosphere of this dark London, any more than it could have prepared them for the horrors that haunted the streets, always present, yet never seen. James had orders to find out what was going on, but they were no closer to finding out where everyone had gone, and why. And more importantly, why there was no sign of a fight.

They’d had one lead however. On the second night of their mission, they’d woken up to hear the sound of running feet, and frightened yelling. Two men had been sent to find out what had happened. James recalled hearing the sound of gunfire, before the two men returned, dragging between them a young man of around 18. Bone thin, unshaven, in tattered clothes and eyes that bulged with fear, he was talking in gibberish for much of the evening, and the riflemen were about to get little out of him. All he would talk about were monsters, underground, with mentions of torture and fire. But that night had taken a further turn into darkness. As James and his men were restraining the man they’d found, there were the sounds of more screaming from outside. Making sure the man was restrained, James and a section of riflemen went outside to find the corpses of the sentries he’d posted lying on the ground, minus their heads. What was more shocking was there were only two bodies out of three left at the scene. Whatever had killed these men had taken another prisoner. Rifleman Henry Cooper, formerly the platoon’s best shot, had been taken. But whilst these events had unfolded, the man they’d found had been oddly silent. It was only when James returned to question him further that he realised the man was dead. James reasoned it was probably the shock that killed him. But they had a lead. A clue as to what was happening. And now, one of his men had gone missing. Taken into some underground torture chamber, according to what the man had said before. And James was never a man to leave one of his men behind.

And this was the reason why James’ men were making their way to King’s Cross Station, towards the entrance to the newly built Metropolitan Railway, and underground railway network many Londoners claimed was the engineering feat of the century. Unfortunately, there were no Londoners around to confirm this.
Their descent into darkness was unnerving, even with the aid of the light of two lamps Sergeant Walker had taken from a stationary locomotive. Their glow in the dank, soot-ridden tunnels was barely enough to allow the riflemen to see ahead as they walked cautiously through the tunnels, avoiding rails and tools that appeared to have been simply abandoned where they were. The darkness was unnerving, but not so much because of the lack of light. Indeed, it was more because this, James was sure, was where Cooper, and the population of London, had been taken.

“What do you reckon sir?”. Sergeant Walker walked alongside James, his rifle barrel glinting from the light of his railway lamp, his hard face cast partly in shadow.
“If Cooper’s down here”, replied James, “We’ll find him. And hopefully put an end to this. Until then, we must be cautious. Keep an eye out lads”, he said to his men, “If anything moves, take aim but hold your fire”. Walker grimaced. A veteran of the Crimean War, he’d been in every kind of battle, but nothing like this. And as sergeant, it was his role to keep the platoon together, and to support his officer. Which was increasingly difficult to do when he himself was fearful of what they might find down here in these filthy tunnels. He gripped his rifle stock tighter, glad that he’d had the foresight to load powder and shot before they ascended.

Rifleman Stevens walked behind Lance-Corporal Temple. The platoon’s youngest soldier, he was slightly more on edge than some of the older men, and looked nervously around him at the slightest provocation. And something in particular was unnerving him.
“Corp?”, he whispered nervously. Temple ignored him.
“Corp?”, persisted Stevens.
“What is it?”.
“There’s no rats, Corp”. Temple glanced back.
“What’re you banging on about?”.
“No rats Corp. There should be thousands of them down here. But there’s none”.
“Your point?”.
“Well, there were no people up there”, replied Stevens, “And there’s no rats down here. Everything’s…dead, Corp”.
“Shut up in the ranks!”, hissed Sergeant Walker from the front. Stevens said no more, there was little he feared more than a lashing from a man who’d reputedly beaten a Russian officer to death with a rifle barrel at Balaclava. But all the same, the lack of any life in this forsaken city was just as frightening.

All of a sudden, a distant noise split the fearful silence. A sort of whispered moan, which stopped as soon as it had been heard, but it was close, and haunting. As one, James’ platoon raised their guns, staring wildly around them as they looked for the source of the noise. James’ grip on his revolver tightened as he shone his lamp around the tunnel.
“Sir”. Walker’s lamp shone down a side-tunnel. They could hear the sound of trickling water as they turned to look into the black abyss of the tunnel before them.
“Plan sir?”. James mulled it over.
“Right…Sergeant Walker, you stay here with half the platoon. The rest of you will come with me down there to see what’s happening down there. And stay alert”.

The second tunnel seemed darker than the last one, and James could definitely feel the level drop as they descended. Lance-Corporal Temple held the lamp, as James, with sword and revolver drawn, took the lead. James despised it down here. It wasn’t just the darkness. The tunnel here was narrower than the last one. The air was more stale, and whilst James didn’t suffer claustrophobia, he wanted nothing more than to get out. The stench of soot and decay was overpowering, and the sound of someone retching behind James made him jump.
“Shut it Allan!”, hissed Temple threateningly, fear giving his voice a sharper edge.

As the men continued their descent, James felt the ground levelling underneath them. Suddenly the air felt cooler, and by the echo of the riflemen’s boots on the ground, could tell they were somewhere more open than before.
“Where are we sir?”.
“No idea”, replied James, glancing around at the expanse of the apparent cavern before them. From the light of Temple’s lamp, he could make out a tall ceiling formed of black girders, with tens of thousands of bricks lining the walls. The place was unfinished however, the glow of the lamp revealing roof supports and large sections of timber at the other end of the tunnel. Apparently, it was a dead end.
James took the lamp from Temple and scanned the industrial architecture. If this section of tunnels was empty (perhaps ‘deserted’ was a better term), then Cooper wasn’t to be found. Meaning they still had a near impossible amount of other places to search.
“Sir!”. James nearly jumped at the Lance-Corporal’s sudden outburst, but he soon realised why. Something was glinting in the light offered by the railway lamp.
“Rifles”, whispered James, “Advance with caution”. They soon found out what it was. It was the badge of the 19th’s crest, on a shako, being worn at an angle by the corpse of the late Rifleman Henry Cooper. His uniform was in tatters, and he appeared to be missing an arm. What was left of his body was covered in bloody scars that appeared to spell words, but James was too appalled to make sense of them.
“Fuck”, a soldier whispered behind James, in a voice that managed to echo around the tunnel. It was not the only noise either. The sound of scurrying, slithering and scraping could be heard all around them, the sound intensifying tenfold by the echoes of the unfinished tunnel. It was with this that James realised something that made his insides freeze. It was a trap.
“We’re dead”, Stevens was saying hysterically, “We’re dead, we’re dead, we’re dea…”.
“RUN! EVERYONE GET OUT OF HERE! NOW”. Thrusting the lamp back at Temple, James grabbed a hold of two of his men and shoved them backwards, whipping out his revolver and firing two shots randomly. The sound echoed around the tunnel, but no sooner had the smoke cleared than one of the soldiers started screaming in pain, followed by another, and another. Some fired their rifles, but in the darkness it was impossible to tell if anything hit. In the black abyss of the darkness surrounding them, the flash of gunpowder blinded James, and he flung his arm to shield his eyes. Blinking, dazed through the noise and sheer panic, he looked around to see where he was, in time to see Lance-Corporal Temple’s head fall beside him. As he jumped to his feet, his heart racing, he took a last desperate lance around him. The lamp had shattered, and the flame extinguished. He was in total darkness, and the sounds of screaming and gunfire seemed oddly faint. As he looked, all James was only able to make out one, terrifying feature of this underground tomb. A pair of red eyes, staring, unblinking, blazing like fire, from the other side of the tunnel. Eyes alight with malice, hate and what could only be described as pure evil.

James forgot his training. He forgot his oath to never leave a soldier behind, to never run from an enemy. He forgot everything as he fled, finding the exit by pure chance as he ran. At least three riflemen were left behind, and their screams followed James and tore into his very soul as he hurried out of the tunnel, desperate for light, for air, for safety. Fear gave speed to his legs and to the sound of his voice as he called out in panic.
“WALKER! SERGEANT WALKER, WHERE ARE YOU? SERGEANT!”. A faint glow appeared at the end of the sloping tunnel. It must have been the sergeant’s lamp. This gave James heart as he sped along, and finally burst into the main tunnel, panting, and looking wildly around for the remainder of his platoon.

He soon found them, bodies mangled and scarlet from blood. Weapons lying at their side, most of them missing limbs or heads. But that wasn’t what scared James. It wasn’t the sight of his own men lying in a lake of blood that made his mouth open in a terrified scream. It wasn’t the impact of the realisation that he was a dead man standing that made him reach for his revolver. And it wasn’t the sight of Sergeant Walker’s head being crushed like a rotten vegetable that made him press the trigger until the chambers were empty and the barrel smoking as though on fire. No, it was the thing standing over the corpses, turning its ugly, fanged head in James direction, and leaping forwards to pin him against the wall and slash through his body with claws like sabres. James' scream echoed around the walls of the tunnel, even after his head was ripped from his shoulders and devoured, his body being left to rot forever in the stinking, cursed tunnels of dead London.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Obligatory Valentine's Day Post

I normally feel pretty angsty around this time of year, but I’ve had the joy of writing and spending unadvised amounts of hours on internet minigames to keep my attention occupied. So I would like to take this as an opportunity to say I wish all my watchers a stonking great Valentine’s Day. It's a day to remind ourselves of how lucky we are to have someone in our lives to call a partner, or alternatively to remind ourselves of the amount of people out there who have the love, but few to share it with (depending on whether you celebrate Valentine's Day or Singles Awareness Day). To all those couples out there, I wish you another year of happiness together, and to all the singles out there, I hope you find that special someone soon. There’s someone out there for everyone , and when you find them, it’ll have made the searching all the more worthwhile.

Right, single cheesiest thing I’ve ever written on this blog. Where’s Iron Maiden when I need them?

Regards, the Beard.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Creative Writing Sample: The Return

I felt horrible writing this. Truly, questioning-my-sanity-whilst-looking-at-myself-in-the-mirror disgust. And reading on you'll see why.

Enjoy (steal this and die!)

The Return

The town was set in the middle of a dip, in the middle of a vast green dale, surrounded by hedgerows and woods that seemed to stretch for eternity. Winding roads weaved between hills and under small stone bridges, and between the tall rows of ageing trees that protected much of the town from the winds that ravaged most of the surrounding areas. A silvery river ran through it, slithering under bridges and through pipes, irrigating fields and supplying the town with a good supply of fresh water. Even for a town in the 21st Century, the people were still very dependent on the river for a lot of income, from fishing to boat tours in summer. Small pubs and restaurants lined the riverbanks, providing the populace with work even in these hard times. It was little wonder that the people of Gallingford were well-known for their hospitality.

The town itself was old-fashioned, many of the buildings harking back to architecture at least four-hundred years out of date. A mix of Tudor bricks-and-timber, as well as a heavy Victorian influence on some of the buildings in the centre of Gallingford, made one feel as though they had taken a leap back in time to an age of top-hats and afternoon teas. The disused mill and engineering workshop located at opposite ends of the city did not help this, but there was an undeniable charm about the town that filled many people with the desire to live there their whole lives. And indeed many had.

A Land-Rover peered over the ridge that overlooked Gallingford, passing under the railway bridge, and stopping just before the slope that would carry it into the centre of the town. The driver of the car stepped out of the vehicle. He was a tall man, with dark hair, and the build of a man who’d spent much of his life in the country. He was young too, looking every inch the post-graduate. Or at least that’s what his outside appearance said. However, post-graduate wasn’t entirely accurate as a title. He leant on the side of his car, gazing at the town below. The sun behind him cast beams of light over the fields, through the woods, over streams and settling on the old buildings, the chops, pubs, cottages, church and relics of the industrial revolution. It made him sigh with nostalgia, as he breathed in a lungful of the fresh country air. How he had missed it.

He got back in, and the car carried on, running between stone walls and wire fences, through the seemingly endless sea of green farmland. Men, machines and animals were at work, tilling the land or grazing the tall grass. As he drove, he noticed herds of horses galloping from one end of the field to the other, racing each other, their hooves pounding the earth and their manes flowing like fire as they thundered along. Wildflowers grew at the roadside, and through the windscreen, he could make out the forms of small brown rabbits, dashing into the hedgerows to escape the metal beast that was roaring along the road.

He was soon in the town. He recognised the old buildings instantly, and seemed to welcome him home like old friends. He recognised the old woman who ran the tea-shop, serving customers sitting under shades outside. He saw the retired Army colonel, a devoted vintage car enthusiast, cruising around in a Rolls Royce from the 1930s. The landlord from his former watering-hole, walking his dog beside the church. Plenty of new faces, plenty of old. He passed the school, where the kids were running around screaming, relishing their temporary freedom from the labour of classroom activities. And there was the restaurant he’d worked a during his college years. Well, it had closed down since then, and become a barbers shop instead. Still, he could remember the sweet feeling of gazing at his monthly paycheque and knowing that he’d earned every penny. Such feelings had been left behind since he’d gone, but now he was back, all these emotions returned in a surge of positive feeling.
His journey back had been unannounced. He’d wanted to keep it that way. Let his return be a surprise. That was considering he’d stick around long enough. He had many things to do now. But he’d try.

He turned a corner and headed past the mill on the north side of the town. His destination was not in the town itself, but rather the farm nestled behind the woods closest to the mill. His childhood home. Growing up on a farm, with a busy yet loving family, had taught him many valuable things. The importance of honesty, hard work, and community. A sanctuary of benevolence, isolated from much of society, and yet free of the struggles of the outside world. Everything was self-sufficient and simple. They never had much, but they were never short either. It was here, growing up in the middle of this beautiful land that he’d developed his taste for adventure, longing to see beyond the fences his father and brothers were constantly building and rebuilding. Hence, moving away had seemed like a good idea. But he’d missed it too much. He’d grown up in a place where everyone knew each other, and to leave, he realised, had been something of a mistake. He’d needed more time to prepare. But still he’d gone. And now, as he slipped the car into upper-gear for the climb upwards, he wondered, had it been worth it? No, was the only possible answer. But he was back now. A chance to start again. There were just a few things he had to take care of first.

As he turned a corner he could see the farmhouse, sat between a warehouse and a tall wooden barn. He could make out the slate roof, the stone walls, and the twin chimneys that had gone black with age. Roses grew up the door, and ivy was crawling up the front wall like some form of rash. The farms haulage machines were sat under a corrugated steel shed. He’d learned to drive on these as a teenager, and it had served him well. A few stray chickens were pecking and scratching around the yard, seemingly oblivious to the approaching vehicle, and a gold and black rooster was crowing from on top of an oil barrel. The rest of the animals would all be out, he realised, and perhaps that was best, given the circumstances. But being back here brought memories and an ever increasing sense of familiarity back to him. And as he brought the car to a stop and opened the door, he couldn’t help think, why had he left in the first place? His time outside had been hard, too hard for him to remain. Coming back, walking through the gate and along the stone path that led to the front of the house, made him realise the good he’d left behind. A job, a family, close friends, and a promising if unglamorous future. And now, he was ready to come back. Back to the life he knew deep down, he never should have left.

Reaching the front door, he sighed before knocking. He was instantly greeted with a volley of loud barking from inside, and could hear the sounds of someone inside trying to hush the dogs as they struggled to find the keys. He could feel his heart beating faster and faster now as he heard footsteps, and the rattling of metal as whoever was inside fumbled with the lock. And then the door opened, and he was greeted by the face of his father, a face looking surprised, then overjoyed, then fearful as the man raised a gun to his father’s forehead and fired once, twice, three times, until the bullets ran out and blood soaked the hallway carpet. The young man turned to go, ignoring the barks of the thankfully restrained dogs as he headed back to his car and drove away.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Brief Update...Heh, brief

Just a random little entry I thought I’d do, since I’ve been bored out of my mind and needing something to do. So I thought I’d take this as an opportunity to say a stonking great ‘thank-you’ to those who have decided to watch my blog, and even more to those who took the time to comment on my odd little essays. Your feedback means more to me than you can imagine, and now that I’m in the process of getting my life on track I hope to be updating this blog a whole lot more. So a huge thank you to my watchers, may you shine amongst the rabble and filth that is the internet. Anyway here’s some of the topics I wish to cover throughout the year:

• Writing Guides: As I am currently studying English and Creative Writing, it seems fair that I should impart some of the knowledge and techniques I have gained from my work and pass them on to fellow writers.

• Games: As I don’t have any consoles at the moment and any really quite recent games, this one will be slightly difficult, but there’s still plenty to be said about the games industry and the requirements for a good game.

• Other Subcultures: After ‘Come to the Dark Side’, I have decided to explore other and alternative subcultures, both those that have been produced mainly online to those in real life. Mainly this will see features on steampunks, gamers, furries, therians etc, mainly because these are absolutely fascinating and I know people from lots of them.

In other news I have been doing a feckload more writing than usual, and I hope to share some with you all in due course. I’d also like to make a mention to a very good friend of mine, not only as a way of wishing her a Happy Birthday but also because her writing is so awesome I once had to reboot my entire system because of how awesome it is. Her blog with an absolutely AMAZING series can be found here ( ) and her profile leads to a significant amount more awesome. Vee-Jay, the happiest of Happy Birthdays to you, you deserve nothing more than the best in everything.

And on a side note, I joined Skype. Look up TheMightyLozz for some random conversation, or just for the heck of it.

Rock on, Laurence

LISTENING TO-Iron Maiden: Coming Home