The new and the original cover designs for Hybrid Moments by Dezign.me
by Steven Stark
The Neanderthal face went blank, those dark, sunken eyes widened and the heavy brow furrowed making trenches and dunes in the scarred forehead. Geoff Clay AKA Clayface, named so by the press for his mottled skin, was lost for words. He’d been distracted by how the woman opposite him shifted in her seat, how the movement disturbed her suit jacket and revealed a tantalising glimpse of cleavage. He hadn’t touched a woman in a while, not without paying.
‘So like I was saying,’ he began then faltered, lost for her name. Had she given one? ‘Like I was saying…err…baby.’
He winced as the word fell from his mouth; journalists were normally uptight, even the tabloid ones. But this one smiled, brilliant white teeth, clean and new as if they’d never chewed a meal.
‘You can call me baby,’ she said.
He smiled back, relief at first then an ember of lust flickered behind those eyes. ‘Good, good,’ he said. ‘You know, I always had a thing for coloured birds. We don’t say coloured no more though do we? What do you call yourselves now?’
The dazzling smile stayed fixed, the words were forced through it. ‘I’m mixed race.’
Clay snorted. ‘Political correctness eh? In my day you were half-caste.’
Her smile faded. ‘As you were saying, Mr Clay? The code?’
‘Yeah, sorry love.’ He slapped his big skull lightly, punishing himself for losing the thread on his well-worn speech; he should have been able to say it backwards by now. ‘Yeah, like I was saying, I never ripped off an honest bloke in my life. Everyone I took it to had it coming. They were drug dealers most of ‘em.’
Her hands made a tent; no need to take notes with the Dictaphone on the glass table between them. She arched a pencil thin eyebrow. ‘And those that weren’t?’
Clay shrugged his broad shoulders, neck thickening as he did in a way which made him resemble a toad.
‘As good as.’
His eyes fell to her long legs. They were perfect, utterly unmarked and beautifully shaped; lean curves meeting at dainty joints. He watched one loop over the other the way that dogs watch people eat.
Keaton was gargling softly now, spluttering foam and blood. Again he convulsed, arching his back, gnarled fingers digging into the bark of the tree. They tore two handfuls from it when he spun on his aggressor.
In spite of himself, of the gun in his own hand, Gary flinched. Keaton seemed taller now, more muscular, his movements assured, powerful as he stepped forward, arms wide, shoulders hunched. Another step and Gary hit him with the butt of the gun, hard, as hard as he could, hard enough to drop any man to the floor, but Keaton’s head only turned with the blow, shedding foam from his lips over his shoulder.
Quickly, Gary readjusted his hold on the gun, his finger threading through the trigger guard while a car engine loitered in Keaton’s throat.
Slowly, Keaton turned back, grinning from ear to ear, his mandible extending as he did, extending way beyond what Gary had thought humanly possible.
excerpt from Disturbing Events
Payne edged closer to the objects. It was clear now they were blades, knives, a surgeon’s cutting tools, laid out upon the flap of an open leather bag; the same one Craven, or whoever, had carried all along.
‘Bargain? you mean a deal? For what?’
‘A loan of his body,’ the intruder explained. ‘For as long as it can last.’
Excerpt from Disturbing Events
My book is now available to download from Amazon
An excerpt from one of my first short stories. The title comes from a Misfits track. I’m currently rewriting this in mind of fitting it into the continuity of the second volume of Disturbing Events.
The negotiations were tense, not because there was much back and forth, or unreasonable conditions applied to the offer, simply because of the hostile atmosphere in the room. Walter was in awe of whom he was pitching to but with only a slightly shaky start he had laid out the proposal; one which he thought quite fair. The Boss seemed to think so too, despite his advisor’s protests and signed off on it. There were a few dark mutterings from the subordinates in attendance but they were silenced as soon as the boss stood up. Walter happily signed his name on the contract, right beside the Boss, and held out his hand.
‘Pleasure doing business with you Mr Macdonald,’ the Boss said in his impossibly deep, cutting voice, the one which felt like nails being driven into your ear drums.
‘And you Sir,’ Walter replied, gripping the Boss’ taloned hand and shaking it enthusiastically.
With the meeting adjourned, the rest slithered and crawled out of the room, some shooting Walter a baleful glare before their exit.
‘We’ll see you soon,’ one said, pulling a malicious grin.
‘Day after tomorrow,’ Walter said with a satisfied smile.
There was blackness ahead, nothing but impenetrable blackness when Walter opened his eyes. He’d experienced this before, on his way out, and now he’d have to endure it on his way in. He reached up to scratch his face and his knuckles grazed a solid surface only a few inches above his nose. Slightly puzzled, Walter pressed his palms outward against the thing and began to push. There was no give and he realised at once where he was.
‘That’s not fair’ he shouted, his voice booming back at him in the tiny space.
An answer did not come, they were probably too busy laughing their asses off in that boardroom. Undeterred, Walter began to claw and gnaw and kick at the pine overhead. He lost a few fingernails in the first couple of hours, but such injuries were of little hindrance to one incapable of feeling pain and he quickly settled into a steady rhythm. Once the pine was breached dirt began to flow into what little space he had. Walter just closed his eyes and continued, grateful that the dirt was wet and therefore easier to shift. His battered fingers clamped the broken edges of the box and began to tear. There was a loud crunch as large chunks snapped off in each hand. Walter was excited now, he’d never before known such strength, and freedom was within his grasp.
Wading through the earth was harder, it took some wriggling and writhing and clawing (Walter even started to eat some) just to get anywhere, and he couldn’t get into a stride at all. Then finally, like in so many movies, his muddied, bloody hand breached the surface of the wet soil. Walter pushed and his arm extended up through so that he could feel the cold air and the rain upon it. The other hand and arm followed suit and in unison heaved the rest of his body out of the ground. Mud was caked around his face and hair, dirt was wedged deep under his remaining fingernails and his suit was soiled beyond repair. Walter did not care though, he was ecstatic to be here. It was as if he were experiencing everything once more for the first time, the texture of mud, the temperature of the rain, the sound of the wind bullying the trees. He knelt there awhile allowing the elements to cleanse his half decayed skin of mud and some of the insects trespassing in and around his body.
He closed his eyes to relish the sensation, but his thoughts soon drifted to Maria, and he knew he could ill afford to linger here too long.
The first order of the day was to get a new outfit and, with clothing ideas already in mind, Walter staggered towards the town where he‘d once lived.
Dawn was breaking and not a soul was yet active in the streets. Walter had this sight all to himself and what a sight it was. The blinding Sun lit the underside of pinkish clouds as it peeked up on the horizon and he basked in its warmth, wondering to himself how many of these he‘d actually witnessed in his life. Unable to recall a single occasion he instead focused his attention on enjoying this majestic sight, still squinting to watch it even as its brilliant light began to burn his retinas.
Walter had stood there so long he’d not noticed the World come to life around him. Cars were now active and people were walking the streets. He caught a look at himself in a shop window, although the image was faint he could see what a horror he appeared. A new outfit was the first order of the day, but without money that was going to be tricky to come by. Walter looked to the clock tower. The bank opposite would be opening its doors in ten minutes. He joined the queue.
Those in the queue did not acknowledge Walter, they didn’t even notice him. They were either distracted by inane text messages, idiotic news headlines, or simply too eager to get inside. When the doors opened they piled in, Walter brushed against a grey haired man in a suit, passing on some of the mud caked over his suit.
‘Idiot,’ grunted the man.
Walter turned back to face him, smiled, nearly tearing the decayed skin of his cheeks, and began to brush the dry dirt off the man’s lapels. ‘Sorry my friend,’ he said, coughing dirty mist as he spoke for the first time.
The grey haired man slapped Walter’s hand away and stormed off. Walter made eye contact with an old lady who had been watching, he shrugged and smiled sheepishly. She gasped at his blackened gums and yellow teeth and recoiled when an earthworm peeked from out a nostril.
‘Thanking-you,’ Walter said in singsong as he took her place in the queue. He itched at his nostril, wriggled a finger up it and sniffed loudly. The worm disappeared.
Slowly the queue dwindled and at the rate of one small step every few minutes Walter came closer to his funds. He looked at the clock, always aware of how precious his time was, and then to the cashiers. All of them were attractive young twenty somethings. Immaculate in their smart suits and sexy glasses like secretaries in porn films. Soon Walter was enjoying his wait, allowing his thoughts to slip into obscene fantasies with the nearest two. He was in the middle of them both, the object of their full attention as they rubbed their firm bodies up against his decayed shell. He wanted to imprint their images on his mind, absorb them into his soul so that he could carry them with him when he was back there in the dark, like a soldier with photos of his girl back home.
‘Cashier number five,’ came the pre-recorded announcement and Walter was next in line.
The very first horror story I wrote. Liked the idea that in hell you must confess your sins before you receive punishment for them. I also thought it would be pretty funny if the method of extracting these confessions was so excessive compared to the pettiness of the protagonist’s “crimes”.
To differentiate between the two realities I played around with the grammatical tense, using different forms for each of the two scenarios. For instance, the reality where Richie is suffering is described in the present tense to give it more immediacy, less certainty-at least that was the idea.
The character of Richie is based on an unfortunate acquaintance of mine, who always seemed to wind up in trouble for doing just the tiniest of things wrong, things most of us get away with every day. I bet everyone knows a Richie. He’s the kid who gets caught shoplifting his first attempt, the one who gets sick the first time he drinks alcohol and has to go hospital to get his stomach pumped. Richie’s the one who’s mother thinks you’re a bad influence and doesn’t want him hanging around with you.
We all know a Richie, and if you don’t know him, you are him.
Anyway, here’s Squealer.