Vanity

I had once been beautiful; and I vowed I would not die.

Everyone thought so. Other men were in awe of my chiselled features and women didn’t do much to hide their obvious infatuation. At balls and things I had my pick of the room and was often seen walking home with a lady or two on my arm and was voted London’s most eligible bachelor six times in a row. That sort of constant adoration has a way of going to your head and I quickly began to define myself by my impeccable looks. I cared not to be clever or wise or funny; I merely poured over correcting every tiny flaw in my appearance and weeded it out. That worked fine for a few years.

But soon I wasn’t the young man I once had been and it was starting to show. I had the faint whispers of crow’s feet and my skin had lost the smooth perfection of before. In its place I had not built myself some other reputation to compensate and knew on some level I was renowned and adored solely for my looks. If that started to physically degrade then I would simply fade back into obscurity. I should have accepted that as a simple fact of life and moved on.

But I had tasted that adoration and I would not give it up.

I splattered myself with chemicals to smooth my skin and whiten my teeth. I had every tiny bruise or cut I might sustain painstakingly corrected and obsessively checked for any other signs of damage or decay.

But as the years went by it became an increasingly uphill battle. With every year it became harder and harder to keep up the appearance and soon I was doing almost nothing but grooming with increasing amounts of chemical cocktails and drugs and surgeries not yet tested to public safety standards. The family inheritance, expected to last my own and my children’s life times, was less than half the size and dwindling at an ever greater rate.

People still adored me at those balls and stopped me in the street to admire me but it felt hollow now; so much having been lost for so little. Sometimes I questioned whether all this loss was worth it: but I was quick to quash those concerns in fear that I might realize just how much damage I had done.

As I approached my late thirties all the cosmetics started to take their toll. My skin was growing paler and my breathing turned to agonized wheezing. My digestion was severely perturbed and my blood didn’t seem to clot meaning any small cut had to be immediately bandaged to prevent too much blood loss. My skin was paper thin and bones increasingly brittle and every day just walking became harder and harder.

I would not become an invalid.

I signed up for an experiment, throwing money at them till they agreed to test it on me first, and had myself wired into a walking life support. It was just to help me walk at first but over time I had more and more pieces added. Eventually I was more machine than man; a vague skeletal pale wraith woven into a grotesque brass and iron suit. Every movement of a joint wheezed with pneumatic pressure and the cogs and motors inside whirred constantly. I wanted to stay a beauty but instead I had become a monster.

When the scientists realized what they had made me into they were deeply afraid and scrapped the program: but now I was irretrievably infused with the machine body. The people who had once loved me drove me away into the sewers and tunnels under the city to live out my days as a hulking growling sobbing monster.

And now I lurk here every day; waiting for the life support to fail. But those scientists did too good a job: I’ve survived longer than most. But now I am little more than a frail skeleton wrapped in a loss grey veil of skin with the hulking mechanical brute the only part that continues to keep me alive. Exposed muscle protrudes through the small gaps in the joints where decades of metal scraping against numb lifeless skin as shaken it loose. I appear corpse-like in the walking casket and dwell alone down here in the filth. Such is the punishment for my profound narcissistic hubris.

I had once been beautiful; and I vowed I would not die.

It looks like I succeeded on that second point.

Witching Hour

Driving home as fast as possible I kept nervously glancing at the clock. The car had been siphoned while I was at work and the extra time filling up left me dangerously close to the wire. I had less than ten minutes to get home and was still just under ten minutes away. All the streets were already clear so at least there was no traffic to deal with but even so I was nervous that I might have to make a final terrifying dash for the door.

Then the engine began to sputter.

I slammed my fist against the wheel; begging my car not to give in now when I needed it most. It ignored my plea and slowed to a stop in the middle of the empty main street. I desperately tried to restart it but there was no use; it had properly broken in a way that I couldn’t fix in the thirty seconds I had spare. I grabbed whatever I could carry out of the car and simply ran for the nearest home that would let me in. Block after block of shut shops and offices offered no respite whilst the faint hints of ominous shadows flitted about in the back streets as the sun disappeared completely below the horizon. The street lights flicked on and I knew I had less than a minute left. I ran and ran in blind desperation. But it was no use and finally that terrible moment arrived and I knew I was far too late.

The streetlights flickered in unison and then snuffed out.

It was completely dark but for the faint glow of the stars. I stood alone in the cold empty street that had been plunged back into its primeval state of darkness not seen for centuries.

Long shadows flitted about in the alleys again. But they seemed more concrete this time. Hungry growls seemed to come from every direction and echo around the concrete in a terrifying shapeless cacophony. I collapsed to the ground and simply gave in: I knew there was no escape.

They began to close in and I could see their hungry eyes gleaming from the shadows.

Nostalgia

As I stepped out of the long lean taxi I felt a fresh Midwestern breeze brush against my neck and strong summer sunbeams patter across my face. My feet hit soft dust, I paid the cabbie, and then stood there staring at the town as I heard him drive off back to civilisation. My eyes soaked up the whole sight and my jaw dropped.

I was home.

The town had been completely unchanged even in all this time. Different people walked the streets and those who remained were elderly but every house and every street was exactly as I remembered it. I felt waves of vivid recollection return to me with each familiar pang of the long pre-emptive retirement of childhood. I had ran down these streets with my friends in the halcyon days before phones or the internet. I used to run down to the corner stores after school and buy as many different candies as I could and I knew every person I would pass on the way. Things had seemed so much simpler back then; before my divorce and remarriage; before having to pay the bills and mow the lawn and do things I didn’t want to. I could just play all afternoon and yet somehow magically dinner would be waiting for me when I came back in.

I recalled all this glassy eyed as a small glimmer developed in my eyes. I finally, for the first time since my last night in this town, felt something resembling happiness.

This is it, I thought, I’m ending it here.

The doctors say it’s incurable: it will happen no matter what. First I’ll start feeling numb in my limbs: making it harder to walk. Eventually I’ll completely lose all feeling in them and be wheelchair bound. After that it will work its way inwards: chest, digestive track, vocal chords, face and bowels. By then I’ll be unable to move and in constant pain at all hours of the day. Eventually whatever sick bastard of a God there is will take mercy and my windpipe will fail to. It is expected to take twenty more years of humiliation. I can already start to feel less and less. I can’t face it.

I swallow the pills in one with no water required and take one last look outside. I remember sitting on those front porches for hours at a time in these lazy summer afternoons. I remember all the friendship and joy of that purer time before I’d been exposed to the raw horror and pointlessness of the world. Slowly my eyes began to close and felt myself slip away.

The Woman in the Well

I lie in the darkness unmoving like I have been for decades. My bones are broken and my eyes shot red on deep milky white. The stones still tint red with my blood from when I had first crashed to the bottom way back then. I had become a legend in this town for all the bloody revenge and anguish and betrayal surrounding my death; for how I was a spirit with unfinished business seeking revenge and my ghost would not rest till it had found justice. Kids were afraid to go near it and even adults tried not to talk about it. I was the witch, the ghoul, the horror of this quaint little town and the only aberration of cosmic macabre in a world of prim and proper innocence. That’s why I came back the way I did.

It was a full moon that night and the sky was tinged a deep blood red. Wolves howled far away and the air was still with the calm before a storm. I hated this town and all its respectability of it: so I came back with my army of the damned all done up and dressed the part. Broken necks and rotting limbs and numb blue fingers split red from old cuts. As they wandered in from the woods beyond and the townsfolk ran to their windows to watch in horror as an undead army approached I felt the glorious elixir of life flow back through my veins as my muscles shuddered back to life. My numb lifeless fingers gripped the cold stone walls of the well and I began to ascend; and what I found delighted me beyond words as the dead were revelling in their slaughter and devouring of the living. None were spared and children in particular maimed and killed. I hadn’t returned for revenge of relief or respite. I had returned to prove something to this town and the whole stupid world beyond.

That there was no God.

Factory Farm

The conveyer belt whirred underneath us and the endless grating music of the factory roared throughout. We were all scared but understood very little of the vast cold unfeeling world we were born into; born with no other purpose but to die on mass. We could all see the whirring mechanical blades that were slicing our forgoers into chunks far ahead getting closer by the second. We were too fat and drugged up to move so simply sat their squawking inanely to one another: acting as if the violent end didn’t exist. There were a few crazy ones who said the system was a sham and we should try to break out. But that sounded like work and besides we didn’t know we would be safe deviating from what everyone else did. So we did nothing. We thought nothing.

There were TV shows they showed us that depicted others of our kind living happy free lives and it made us feel happy and free. We just sat there and watched as the dissenting voices grew increasingly desperate for our attention. We ignored them: they made us feel uncomfortable so we did our best not to fraternize with them. We just tried to shut out the dissent and focus on our shows and try and let the dull numbness consume our minds and bodies. We barely noticed the approaching jaws of steel.

Then at the last minute I turned and saw the blades mere moments away and suddenly became very afraid. I was suddenly gripped by a compulsion to escape I had never felt before. I tried to lift myself up to run but a lifetime of inactivity made me too weak to do so.

As the jaws sliced through my soft flesh and a fresh spurt of blood joined the rest I was pierced with the last feeling I’d ever have: regret.

Bad Trip

Tick tock tick tock the clock ticks away as normal but then slowly drains away; each second stretching out longer and longer into the hours. The colours start to bleed and fade and the sounds scramble into serene white noise. All seems blissful momentarily.

But then slowly my anxiety crept back and a surge of fear with it. Slowly the serene background ambience sharpened into a billion nails on a billion chalkboards all screeching at once. I collapsed to the ground and stuck my fingers in my ears but it did nothing to blot out the sound. I looked up to see my dorm room had gone and now was a forest of twisted dark trees. The cold prodded at my skin with the feeling of a thousand slowly creeping pushing fingers all over my skin. I felt bugs that I could see crawl all over me and there were large bloated bugs I could see hanging from the trees. A huge spider with a massive mechanical mushroom sticking out of its exposed brain crawled across the ground towards me as it ticked away. Finally it crawled to a halt and began to tick louder and louder. At last it burst into a swarm of butterflies with broken grey leathery wings and horrible sucking noises came from them. I tried to run but my legs sunk through the floor as I kept being felt by those horrible hands. I felt the huge unblinking black eyes of a fish bore into me as I was swept into impossible inky red/black depths. I began to feel the last pieces of my mind fall away and time slowed to a halt.

I would be trapped in here forever.

Titans

Once, thousands of years ago, huge monsters walked the Earth. But they were not flesh and blood. These vast men were made of stone and boulders with great glowing eyes of fire. They would stomp across the huge expanses of wasteland that covered the world and all mortal creatures lived in fear of their might. Amongst these were a group that would one day be known as Homo sapien. These creatures were small, like the rest of the Mortals, but unusually smart. Whilst the other creatures simply ran or hid the humans planned and schemed and made their plans for annihilating their huge stone oppressors. After many decades of co-operating in larger and larger groups the humans finally overwhelmed the monsters and lost many thousands of lives in the process. Their deaths were not in vain however as the beasts eventually all were trapped deep within the Earth. Jubilant with their success the human population quickly skyrocketed as there was no longer the constant threat of death from above as these vast creatures were now annihilated- although of course they weren’t technically dead as such. The unification of so many tribes and small nations allowed the development of larger ones and, through co-operation, much was accomplished by the humans.

But you know what happened next. The factions split: they had many times before but not like this. Each weapon of theirs could kill ten thousand men in a second. The final war of humanity wiped out almost everyone. Soon there was nothing but a few scattered survivors. They too began to rebuild and there was hope of human recovery.

Until the graves opened.

And the long dead Titans woke again.