Eleven stories of horror and the supernatural. Meet creatures of evil and destruction both human and not. A dark family with a white sheep. An enforcer tracking a deranged killer. Criminals of the future and the present. Abusers and the abused. An old man with an amazing power. A writer on a rich man's quest and one rare young woman with the seventh sense.
Excerpt from The Hand Dryer King:
There’s more than one heart in the human body. I’m not talking about sentiment, the heart you find on a Valentine’s Day card, not the type young girls scrawl on the pages of school books or in little diaries protected with flimsy gold coloured locks. I mean the heart of old beliefs. The heart as the centre of being. What we knew before science told us the brain was we and we the brain. Would you be surprised to find there are hearts in each of your fingers and more than that? In your toes! That’s right.
I sit here with mine covered in woollen socks, my feet on my sofa, warmed by my gas fire and the heavy meal I wolfed not an hour ago. I move them, make circles in the air. I may massage them later while I watch my television and eat my fill of evening treats.
It won’t make any difference. No more than if I shout at the sky when it rains because I don’t want to get wet. They’ll still be cold.
I’m forty-nine. No, don’t be kind. I know what I look like. Got my mirror haven’t I? Set over the fire, you see. If you took a tour around my house you’d find a lot of my conveniences are near heat. My bed backed up as near as can be to the radiator. My kettle by the combi boiler. ****, even the telephone has a baby fan heater for a friend out in the hall. My fingers and toes have hearts and they remember cold like no brain ever could.
I was a tramp. Vagrant some say. The Americans would have it hobo. Tenderfoots and know all liberals, homeless! I was a tramp because I tramped. I walked across pavement and road and long canal paths, across every park in this town. I earned the title.
Before that I was a husband. I was a father. I was a drinker. I expect you know where my priority lay, although in my defence it wasn’t always that way. Whose life story is a straight line? The details don’t really matter. My wife found a man who could and did drink socially, the ****. He liked my boy and I hope my boy liked him back.
I got another four walls and sort of lived until my drunk life and my real one converged. Couldn’t say for certain but I think it was July 1990 I was thrown out by a landlord whose name I forget. Within weeks I was in Lindholme doing four months for persistent shoplifting. I left prison with my clothes and pretty much stayed that way for the rest of my stint on the streets.
It turned out my town had a number of invisibles. Maybe two dozen regulars in the centre with a few nomads dropping in. People disappeared now and then. Most came back, having paid their dues to Her Majesty.
I got to know all the best places. Where to get food, don’t pull a face. I won’t share all the details. I begged, occasionally threatened and I always, always, got by. A pattern of prison and streets continued throughout the year. I kept going because when drink is master you do what it tells you.
Christmas 1991 was mild and the New Year brought opportunities. The town filled with lunchtime revellers and I did well for myself, dancing in the pubs where I could get in. I knew I had to chance it in the day because even the greenest night time bouncer would mark my card as soon as he got a whiff of me.
People took the piss but I took their money. Get forty part time drinkers throwing change at you and it soon adds up. I got a half bottle of Wild Turkey and settled at the rear of the library where it’s nicely sheltered.
I’d had one sip when the bottle vanished. I stared at my empty hand and heard glass splinter and the sound of liquid spilling on cold tarmac.