Never Strikes Twice

The first bolt of lightning stuck just aside of its target, drawn to the metal weather gauge jutting out of the roof and sending a profound crack through the brown tiles.

The second hit true; dead centre. The whole roof went crashing down in a hail of broken tile and splinters of wooden beams.

If not for the downpour the whole thing would be alight. Which was precisely why we had chosen this sodden autumn night to strike.

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One Hundred and Four Years

Rick knew who was coming before Emily appeared from behind the curtains. He had heard the wind begin battering the windows as the weather suddenly took a turn, then the soft whoosh as the patio door slid open.

The draught that crept in was too cold for this time of year, even for sodding miserable England. She brought it. It was June, for crying out loud – he’d been having a barbecue this time last week!

“Emily, I’ve asked you to leave me alone, for God’s sake.”

Emily frowned at him with her severe mouth, “if I had asked you for a favour, would you have done it?”

Rick closed the paper he had been working on and pushed the file away from him. He pushed his glasses onto his head and rubbed his eyes. He didn’t have time for this. Not tonight, not the night before polling.

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The Nightmare Hunter

Hi everyone! Sorry about the rather scarce content on here for the past week or so, my routine has been all over the place! Last night I was planning to write but they found an unexploded WWII bomb near where I work so it was complete chaos on the roads. It took me three and a half hours to get home. Madness. After that I really just wanted to eat, watch TV and sleep (so I did).

I’m also focusing on a project with a fairly tight turnaround at the moment, and it’s for a contest so I can’t publish it here. But I don’t want to leave you with nothing, I’ve dug out another old prompt response from the vaults (what will I do when I run out of these?). 

This was the prompt by u/D_D_R on Reddit:

“You are a nightmare hunter. You enter into people’s minds to free them from their worst torments.”

I hope you enjoy it.

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Smoke and Shadow

Thanks to u/PolicyBroker for the prompt 

It couldn’t believe its luck. Centuries ago, the last time it had escaped the shadow dimension it came from, it had used priests to find suitable hosts, following them for months, sometimes years until they led it to what it wanted.

The poor, naïve mortals thought that a relative was possessed. The priest would go to perform an exorcism. The torment and suffering they inflicted upon their own kind and the sweet irony of the monster hunters becoming the monsters – mmm, it groaned with pleasure remembering how that dark, fruity chaos tasted. The pain was what let it into their souls.

Possession, ha. Those arrogant human clerics had no idea of the true meaning.

This modern world was different, though, it could tell. It didn’t understand time, had no concept of the year and the noisy human millennium celebrations made no sense to it. But it could tell, on a molecular level, that the world had changed. The superstition and fear of the supernatural were muted, crushed by the weight of industry, science and technology. The city was clean and square and well-lit.

It was scared.

It slinked aimlessly through gutters and alleys in the dead of night, its smoke-and-shadow form unseen by ignorant mortal eyes. It trudged through the urban sprawl of shops, out past industrial estates full of dirty trucks and stinking of petrol, out into suburbs where the doors and window-frames were made of cheap, greying plastic and front gardens lay in brown neglect, filled with broken toys and empty bottles.

It was here that it found the church. It couldn’t read the sign outside and it didn’t recognise the squat, pebbledash box with the corrugated roof. But it recognised the cross. Big and crude, stuck into the patch of yellow grass behind the broken front gate.

A red glow was just sneaking over the horizon, so it found a place to hide behind some bins, watching the church, clinging to the sense of familiarity, the deep and unchanged power of the God they worshipped inside.

It watched the people scurry in and out all day, and at dusk, it watched the priest step out and lock the front doors behind him. The small, grey-haired man adjusted his scarf, covering his priest’s collar, and rubbed his hands together. His breath steamed in the chill night air as he set off away from the church. It followed, curious.

And it could hardly believe its luck when the priest led him to the bedroom of sickly child. She was perfect. White skin, pale blonde hair and a frilly pink night dress that made her look like a Victorian doll. Not that it knew what a Victorian doll was.

Pain and suffering; it could smell them here. And who would suspect a poor, sick little girl? The priest spoke to her parents in hushed tones while it slid under the bed and pushed itself up and through the mattress.

Its excitement rose as it neared her clammy skin and smelt the sweet, rotten fragrance of disease sweating from her pores with the fever. It pushed towards the disease and towards the girl reaching out with tendril fingers for her poor little doomed soul.

It sank into her, feeling that familiar rush of pouring into a fresh host, corrupting every cell and every space between. But then it felt itself pulled back, as if it had been hooked around its middle and it became aware of a corporeal form – but not the little girl’s. It had been forced into a form it had not chosen.

Something cold and hard closed around its new neck, new eyes glowed yellow but could not yet see, blinded by the sudden light. It tried to move its arms and scratch blindly in defence but it found itself shackled, heard the tell-tale rattle of chains.

Anseth,’ whispered a smoky, serpentine voice – a feminine voice.

Anseth, yes it remembered. That was the name it had gone by. Anseth thinks he was male.

You used to be a God, and look at you now. Tricked. Shackled. Mine.

Shapes, blurry shapes, started to appear as his vision adjusted. His new tongue felt dry and thick as he struggled to form an ancient language, forgotten by all but the oldest demons.

‘How?’ was all Anseth managed.

The girl.

‘You.’ Anseth could see enough now to recognise the tall, spindly creature before him. Something like a woman, a praying mantis and a spider rolled into one. It – she – nodded.

‘The parents?’

Puppets. Husks. Controlled by my most loyal subjects. As you will be soon.

Anseth realised then that the fear he had smelled on the girl had not been a mortal fear. It was so strong and so mouth-wateringly tempting because it had been the fear of his own kind. Shadow creatures and fire demons and bone wraiths and every other evil lurking in the unknown. He had been blinded by his hunger.

‘How many?’ he asked.

Thousands,’ said the insect woman, gleefully. ‘My reign shall be eternal, and my kingdom shall be Chaos. Now kneel, Anseth. Bow to your queen.

Anseth felt an iron will, stronger and harder than the irons around his neck and wrists, bearing down on his neck, commanding him to kneel. He found that he did indeed have knees and he knelt.

And what a fine little puppet you shall make.

Devil’s Advocate

I was in sat in court. Why was I…? Wait, what – what happened? One moment I was in my car, a little over the speed limit because I really needed to make that meeting, and then that idiot in the flashy red convertible – we all know you’re overcompensating buddy! – swerved into my lane… but his tyres skidded… the car spun… I hit the brakes… and… and…

My heart thundered, I couldn’t control my breathing, was I… dead? The buzzing of the courtroom around me seemed to dull, my vision blurred. I was panicking. Breathe, breathe – oh god I can’t breathe!

‘Calm down, kid.’ I jumped as I felt a cold hand on my arm and barely bit back a scream as I turned to who – what – had spoken to me.

It was humanoid in shape but its skin was reptilian: deep red and waxy-looking. Its clawed hand felt cold on my arm and I wilted under the gaze of its large, lizard-like eyes, like orbs of molten, yellow gold slashed with obsidian. Its head was dragon-like: hairless and long, with two short horns and a tapered snout full of sharp teeth.

And it was wearing… a suit?

‘W-who? What?’ I stammered, trying to cower away from the dragon-man, but he held my arm firm.

‘Geez, see this is why we make the ancestors do this,’ he huffed to nobody in particular, before turning to face me again. ‘Listen, kiddo, I ain’t no good at putting things gently so I’m gonna be straight with ya. You’re dead. Splat, right on the road. Shoulda buckled up, but boy did ya fly through that windshield.’ He illustrated my gruesome demise with a lilting whistle and an arcing sweep of his index finger, ending with a loud raspberry.

I stared at him, horrified. This didn’t feel real. Was I in a coma? Had I fallen asleep at the wheel and into some wacky nightmare?

He clicked his taloned fingers in my face. ‘Hey! If ya want a decent defense ya gotta snap out of it!’

Right, I was in court. But… ‘why am I in court?’

‘Well, this is what you humans sometimes call Purgatory. Before we can send your soul anywhere else, ya know, reincarnation, Heaven, eternal damnation, yadda yadda, ya gotta answer for what ya did.’

‘What did I do?’ I asked indignantly, crossing my arms across my chest.

The dragon-man sighed. ‘Ain’t nothing but grief from your family, is it? I’ll admit, this isn’t really your fault, we got a… situation. Your ancestors – generations and generations back – prayed to the Gods asking for strength on the battlefield. They vowed that if their sons came home unscathed, victorious in battle, they would faithfully worship them forevermore and raise strong, fearless, god-respecting warriors until the bloodline was no more.’


He raised an eyebrow at me. ‘And are you a strong, fearless, god-respecting warrior?’

I looked down at my shoes, decent leather but scuffed and in need of a polish. ‘I’m an IT manager.’


‘But,’ I continued stubbornly, ‘thousands of people must have made vows like that, to hundreds of Gods. Surely you can’t hold all of them to those promises!’

‘Hmm, yeah we tried that line of defense in the first couple of trials, got nowhere,’ mused the dragon-man, ‘and you’re right we can’t even remember which Gods they were praying to to begin with. Unfortunately for you, unlike most the prayer of your ancestors was heard. Just, erm, not by who it was intended for…’

He clawed at his shirt collar and lowered his gaze.

‘Are you the Devil?’ I whispered.

He threw his head back and roared with laughter. I swore I saw tendrils of smoke escape from his nostrils.

‘If I was the Devil why would I be sat here in a stuffy human souls court?’ He laughed again but then shrugged apologetically. ‘Eh, I know the guy. Used to work for him, more or less. It was him what heard that prayer. Part of the deal they made was that they wouldn’t be able to represent their descendants in soul court – that’s usually the way it goes, less of a shock for the deceased – don’t think they read that part of the small print. It’s why I’m here: as your attorney.’

‘So what happens? I’m not a warrior so what happens? Was that part of the deal?’

The dragon-attorney looked almost sad. ‘Yeah, kid, it was part of the deal. It’s not good, I’ll leave it at that. Ya don’t wanna know the details.’

I gulped and gazed around at the audience and jury chattering away, impatiently awaiting the judge, whose bench was still empty.

‘So what is our defense?’ I asked as the judge strode in and the room fell quiet.

My attorney winked. ‘You’ll see, I think I found a loophole and I got a good feeling about this one.’

I sat glued to my seat, utterly petrified as I listened to the beginning of proceedings. When the prosecution had listed my charges and made their opening statement, my dragon-attorney stood up and made his.

‘Your honour,’ he grinned, ‘how rude of the prosecution to suggest that the defendant is not a warrior? Perhaps he is not in his day job but have you ever heard of something called World of Warcraft, more specifically, of a class of holy warriors called Paladins?’

This is another short originally posted on Reddit but I had a lot of fun with the dialogue in it and the WoW twist at the end. I hope you did too! Credit to /u/Maichayer for the prompt that inspired it:

Upon the instance of death, each person find themselves in a courtroom, defending their life choices. Most people have lawyers who were family or friends already passed on, but you had no one like that. The court assigns you an attorney, and he is a literal Demon.

I’m hoping to get some originals written specifically for the blog up soon. In the meantime, I hope you’re enjoying these highlights from my prompt responses.

Continue reading “Devil’s Advocate”