A Dismemberment of Corpses

A Dismemberment of Corpses

Short Fiction

Richard Barr

For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.

Luke 8:17

 

There’d been an incident in work and now an investigation were underway. From the investigation would come a decision, and this decision determined whether or not I’d return to my job in the radiator factory.

‘Will I still get paid?’ I asked my line manager, Gemini.

‘Not until you come back. If you come back,’ he replied. Under his annoying nasally voice I could hear the distant rotations of the production line, efficiently at work in my absence.

I stayed indoors for a week, staring at the wall, thinking about things and counting out what measly coinage I had left myself with. Then, when I ventured out, I found it were a hard thing to do reacquainting myself with civic deportment, for example choosing a side of the street/aisle/walkway to go along, and letting the person coming choose theirs. 3 times I put myself nose to nose with some bod, stuck in a this-way that-way shimmy run through with sorries. Anyway, I made it to the cheapo shop up on North Street: stocked up on shite-wipe and coffee; the essentials.

After that I walked further on up to Eason’s and spent my remaining £1.50 on a scratch card. I got 3 raspberries, equalling a 40 squid prize, and so indulging an old childhood fancy for ice-skating, I resolved to take myself over to Dundonald Ice Bowl for a spot of recreationals.

 

* * *

 

It were something I hadn’t done in a long time, skating. Gliding around there; figures of 8. Around and around. Wheels within wheels. Not a care in the world. My troubles, with my shoes, left back in the locker room.

When I were done I sat in the grimy cafeteria overlooking the ice rink. After a while I noticed this young scamp, 16-21, sail by, his nose in the air—very imperial and apart looking. I sipped slowly on my soda waiting till he were finished and when he were I went over to him in the dugout by the rink.

‘Way you glide along on that ice you’re like a falcon in flight,’ I said, right in his ear.

In the mirror’s reflection I could see his cute, tight smile stretch and part, revealing by scintillating degrees a row of small, beamy white teeth lined up in that fresh, sexy mouth of his like so many infants’ headstones.

‘That’s novel,’ he said. ‘If I’m your falcon what does that make you… my prey?’

‘Could take you for a drink and find out?’

‘Lead the way,’ he said.

Due to it being a dreary, grey skied late-afternoon Sunday, there were no bars open and all the offies were shut, this being down to the diktats of the current rabble of Holy Joe powerbrokers on the hill who decreed there’d be no imbibing on the Sabbath Day, and who took every measure they deemed necessary to make this so.

We crawled along Bedford Street, hung a right on Franklin then, me wondering if any of the hoors who took up a perch around there would’ve turned out early.

The young skater, Shaznie as he told me he preferred being called, put his hand on my leg and said, ‘Funny this hole on a Sunday afternoon, ain’t it, Danny? Every shopfront with their shutters down and not a sinner on the street save for Japanese tourists who’re wandering about with their mouths hanging open, wondering to themselves if there’s a nuclear winter about to set in.’

‘Dunno about a nuclear winter,’ I replied, ‘But a nuclear war’s what this place needs. Level the joint and everyone in it and start again.’

‘On no, but something like that’ll happen one day… but the world won’t come to an end, like tidal waves and beasts rising from the sea, no… it’ll be bad first, yeah, but then it’ll be free love and getting all the sustenance you need off the heat of the sun, all those good things, dude. And when it happens… all so beautiful.’

‘Dunno, babe. Never even that confident about what lies ahead 24 hours from now, never mind some speculated upon date in the far off future.’

‘Ah, but no. It’s written. It’s going to be. We’re due a galactic alignment. This earth. Mother Gaia!’

‘Anyway,’ I said, frustrated, ‘you know where we’d be able to score some gear? Some speed? Whippersnapper like you’s bound to.’

‘What you’d really like’s a drink though, am I right?’

‘You’re right,’ I said.

‘Take the next left and drive on up onto Donegall Pass. There’s a wee club up there sells booze on a Sunday. Only one I know of in this place.’

‘A club on Donegall Pass?’ I said, thinking about it and coming up empty.

‘Very exclusive wee place… so exclusive they never even bothered naming it,’ Shaznie said with a nearly-evil little wink. ‘But actually, though, I want you to take me up to Belvoir Park Forest first, before it gets dark. This is shrooms season and that there place’s the best place to harvest ‘em. Wanna get there before it’s picked clean, know what I mean?’

‘Sure,’ I said, pulling on the wheel and u-turning the motor.

A late-Autumn evening drew in and darkened the treetops as we descended the steep hill into the forest. I parked up and Shaznie took a couple of old shopping bags from the back seat.

‘We’ll split up, but don’t go too far,’ said Shaznie.

‘I don’t know this place at all,’ I said, ‘so I won’t get outside of shouting distance, for sure.’

We walked for a while until we reached a wide, lush clearing.

‘Ok,’ said Shaznie, cracking his knuckles, ‘it’s been raining lately but the air’s quite tepid now, it’s mild. Good conditions, good conditions. Take a bag,’ he said, handing me one, ‘that patch there, under the sycamore tree, that’d be a good place for you to start. And you know what you’re looking for, don’t you?’

‘Magic Mushrooms? Course I do!’

‘Just checking,’ he said, tee-heeing.

I collected around three dozen, left the patch under the tree stripped of them. I also foraged among some bushes around the tree, and along a path that ran up behind it, but found no more. It seemed like a good half hour had passed, so I returned back into the clearing to show Shaznie what I’d got, but there were no sign of him.

‘Shaznie?’ I went, slightly above talking volume, then louder, ‘Shaznie?’

I waited a moment or two, listened to hear if I could hear anything. ‘SHAZZZZNIEEE!’

I strained to hear even an echo, but could make out nothing save for the glum cawing of ravens somewhere far off. Moments passed, and the still and pure silence that had now crystallised, however briefly, were not interrupted. Finally, from what I guessed were an easterly direction, the sharp, dry crack of a stick broke the quiet. Sweat surfaced on my brow. I put my head down and marched quick as I could toward the sound. I reached the trees, stepping over a broken bough half buried in the mud. I stopped, stood still, listened again. A hardly-there breeze moved through the forest and what leaves were still left on the branches rustled softly, before silence reigned again.

Then, a scream. It came from behind me, unexpected as fork lightning on a sunny day. A scream, so high pitched, it bordered on the glass-shattering. The scream were male’s, and adolescent, perhaps, god forbid, younger than that even. I skipped back over the broken branch and ran back into the clearing, arriving to find Shaznie appear from the trees opposite with twigs and leaves sticking out of his hair.

‘Where the fuck were you? Fuckin’ hell… was that you screaming there?’

‘Me? No. Kids. Horsing around back there. Got a tree swing back in there. Dangerous looking. I’d’ve told them off if I’d thought it would do any good. Sorry, Danny.’

‘You’ve blood on your shirt cuff,’ I said on noticing it.

‘Oh yeah, cut myself,’ he replied, though on taking a quick look at his hands I didn’t spot any gashes or anything. ‘So you got me some then,’ he said, nodding at my bag.

‘Around three dozen,’ I replied.

‘Good stuff. I got around the same amount, give or take. We’ll brew up some concoction with this, I’ll say. But later. In the meantime we’ll get down to that wee club, get you your drink, hey?’

‘Lead the way,’ I said, waving him on.

Shaznie directed me down a side street off the Donegall Pass. We got out the motor and he led me down a long narrow alley that opened out onto a small enclosed courtyard. The club, from the outside, looked like a Salvation Army hall; like a place where the WI would meet every fortnight.

‘Here we are,’ said Shaznie.

‘My motor gonna be OK parked up on that street?’ I asked.

‘Sure it will. Nobody round here fucks with a car they don’t recognise. They assume it belongs to somebody that’s a member of this club. And you don’t wanna go messin’ with somebody that comes to this club.’ He approached a wire mesh screen door and buzzed the intercom.

‘Alright, Shaznie,’ came a static-heavy voice. ‘Who’s that you’ve got with you?’

‘Friend of mine. He’s cool,’ said Shaznie. ‘He’s got a bit of a thirst on. Wondered if I could bring him in for a drink? Was down in the forest there, too. I, we, collected many pickings, which we’ve brought with us.’

A small box above us buzzed and both the outer door and the heavy corrugated iron main door behind it released and gave way, leading to the dark rooms beyond.

We walked along a short, dimly lit hall. 3 doors ran up either side. Framed pictures of men dressed in military regalia from what looked like different armies lined the walls between the doors. There were other pictures that showed the same cut of men—square jaws, prouder looking than they maybe should’ve been—and they wore robes and aprons bearing strange symbols while in their hands they held evil looking objects, things, on looking at them, I could not fathom the use for.

We reached the end of the hall and emerged into a 70’s-sleazy looking lounge/bar, all shag carpet and flock wallpaper, the wallpaper in fact, on running my fingers along it, near thick enough to sink a baby’s foot into. Along these well-kept walls were more pictures—and some portraits—of more men, ghastly looking in their peculiar outfits.

A lush at the bar turned and took a good look at us up and down before returning to his scotch and ice. He mumbled something to the barman who’d his back to him but who got a juke at us in the small mirror above the till.

In the corner sat two men, in near darkness, both in deep discussion.

‘There’s Nirab and Babypig,’ said Shaznie. ‘They say they’re sorcerers. Pure melters. Let’s go up and say hi.’

Shaznie made the intros all round: Babypig were skinny and tall and had a maximum girly-turn way in him. Nirab were a dark bastard, dressed as he were in a black turtleneck and coming down with a fucking rotten smell. They were both around about mid-50ish and, to my surprise, were smoking some humming draw which we silently passed between ourselves for many minutes.

‘Guessing the smoking ban’s not reached this place yet then?’ I said.

Nirab grinned, saying, ‘Not much reaches these parts, now, no.’

‘What’s yer poison, pilgrim?’ interjected Babypig.

‘Gin and tonic,’ I said, feeling the pressure behind my eyes ease, ‘ice and a slice as well.’

Nirab killed the joint in a big marble ashtray that were already overflowing with cigar butts. ‘Your round,’ he said to Babypig, who got up and approached the bar. Nirab stared into the ashtray and took on a blank look, like he were using it for scrying. ‘Good draw, that. Very good marijuana,’ he said at last.

‘We’d a good day down in the forest, Nirab,’ said Shaznie, sounding like he were eager to please.

‘Magical place, that forest. Very sacred space down in them trees,’ said Nirab. ‘And if you know what you’re looking for, the forest floor offers the most fantastic and precious treasures. Treasures that grant you the means to gaze upon different realities. Tell me Danny, you believe in Wood Elves? Sprites? Orbs? Trolls? Forest Dwellers? Demonic Occupants of the Underworld or even the Elementals?’

‘That’s some list,’ I replied, cotton-mouthed and banjaxed. ‘Does believing in one mean you have to believe in them all?’

‘Of course not,’ replied Nirab as Babypig returned with the drinks and accompanying shots.

‘Shot first,’ said Babypig, excitedly, holding up his own in invitation to a toast. ‘To new friends,’ he said, and we all clinked glasses and threw them down the hatch.

Shaznie started sipping on his Bloody Mary, then began squeezing his dick like boy children do when they’re giddy and trying to stop from pissing themselves. ‘Nirab, tell Danny here about what you and Babypig and the rest of that bunch of weirdoes you hung about with said you saw down in that forest.’

‘I tell you Danny,’ said Nirab. ‘Me and Babypig here, what we saw in that place would’ve stayed with you forever. Strange doesn’t come into it.’

‘It was an occasion,’ whispered Babypig, ‘when the staging and props of this world rolled away to reveal the nuts and bolts of the next…’

‘The afterlife?’ I lisped.

‘Not really, no. You want me to tell you the story of how it all came about?’

‘Sure.’

‘Some years ago, me and Nirab here used to run another one of these type of after-hours club down in Chichester Street. This night we were hosting this big politico from Westminster; him and a couple of his cronies from over here. He was a big man all the way round.’

‘A fat cunt,’ said Nirab.

‘Turns out this grand statesman’s a connoisseur of young hole. Fair enough, we think. We cater to EVERY taste, me and Nirab in this club; it’s what we’re famed for. Thing about it is, when you’re a slave to feeding the voracious and varied dark appetites of the human spirit, you gotta have your fingers in a lot of pies, a lot of mucky pies.’

‘And it so happened,’ continued Nirab, ‘that in the case of, what shall we say, child love, it was my finger that was in that pie in the shape of my cousin Maurice—not his real name—who ran a borstal out in the East, no need to get into particulars. Maurice, see, he told me all about the easy ones. Wee Teddy Bears he called them. Maybe they had no people to help ‘em out, maybe they were fuckin soft in the head… anyway, I gave him a call, tell him the situation, gave him assurances on the money owed and the money earned. So he tells me about this young pup named Billy Wilson, very suggestible lad, Maurice had been working him over a while, got him real soft for us.’

‘Nobody’s child,’ went Babypig.

‘So Maurice, he brings the wee fella over and the big politico, him and his couple of cronies, take him straight in the back and go to work on him… know what I mean? We watch; me and Babypig. Couldn’t be seen to be disapproving. After the dirt they go buck wild on him: beat him with cables, set his hands and feet on fire… the whole caboose. Then this head the ball, he stops, and Billy by this point’s on death’s door, but he starts blathering then about how he’s an adept of this Saturnian Death-Cult magick. Say’s, and here Nirab put on a real posh lilt, all marbles in his mouth, ‘it is a very significant date we do this thing on. Let us elevate the act and deliver to our daemonic masters who reside between the veils a gift of sacrifice…’

I started to feel queasy. The shot lay heavy in the pit of my stomach.

Babypig shuddered as Nirab went on, ‘…So we chloroform Billy, put him in the boot of Babypig’s Morris Minor and we all, the whole lot of us, go down into that forest, and we chop him to bits, all the while the auld political fish come moonlighting warlock is chanting all this Olde Tongue, as he calls it, throwing bits of the boy north, south, east and west… trying to summon they that reside beyond the veil, he tells us.’

A Host for the Sabbat… A Dismemberment of Corpses, is what he called it,’ said Babypig.

I boked into my lap, grabbed my keys and slid backward off my stool, away from them. The room began to swim before me. I gripped the edge of the table and got up to run, turned, and fell down, flat on my face. My arms, my knees, my very feet zapped of strength or feeling.

Nirab, Babypig and Shaznie stumbled over and stood looking down at me. From where I lay on the floor, they seemed to stretch up, and on, forever.

Babypig and Shaznie picked me up and set me back on my stool. ‘You’ll be out of it for a wee while now, Danny,’ said Nirab, giggling. ‘But don’t worry—‘tis only your body that’s failed you. We know you’re still going to hear and understand what I’m about to tell you here:… so… we were so spectacularly amazed by what this man manifested that night, we entered into a thorough study of the phenomena and the associated ritual involved in bringing it about. It is seven years to the day it happened. Seven may not sound like a typically anniversary-worthy number to someone like you, but seven is significant—it is the Invisible Centre, the Spirit of everything… And now we are ready.’

‘We want,’ whispered Babypig, ‘to bear witness to the powers that few can genuinely claim to have seen, and fewer still can harness… To SEE BEYOND SIGHT…’ he hissed.

‘You’re going to help us, Danny,’ said Babypig.

‘I won’t,’ I drawled.

‘You’re already implicated,’ said Nirab. ‘The boy we’ve got for this one, we… gave him over… this afternoon in the forest. That scream you heard, remember? But if you recall, Danny, also, your car will have been logged by the traffic camera on the road leading down there—both entering and leaving the forest during the frame of time the police will determine the boy died in.’

‘As well,’ guffawed Babypig, ‘as well… when Shaznie re-entered your car he had the boy’s blood on him, substantial particles of which will have made its way onto your upholstery.’

‘So you see,’ said Nirab, ‘you don’t play ball and one quick phone call from one of us and the peelers’ll bang you up, throw away the key. And you know what they do to child killing nonces inside, don’t you?’

It felt like I were losing control of my functions. I shut my eyes, regained some sense of equilibrium, and then looked between the three of them.

My contingencies spent, I passed out.

 

* * *

 

I came to sitting on the ground, leant up against a tree stump. Babypig and Nirab stood before a small fire pit. Both were dressed in crimson robes.

I took a look around. First thing I saw were my clothes, neatly folded and piled up behind me. Only then did I look down and see that I were sporting this robe getup too.

Babypig and Nirab, it seemed, didn’t realise I’d come to yet. Keeping my eye on them, I reached back and, pushing my cowboy boots out of the way, made a grasp for things, feeling and recognising my jeans, my shirt, arriving at my coat, finally. I felt all about it, getting to what I were looking for: my phone.

Shaznie then appeared, emerging from the darkness of the trees into the fire’s developing light. He’d his crimson robes on too, and he were dragging something behind him. He reached Nirab and Babypig, placing it at their feet. I strained and saw it were a boy, by the look and size of him around 14. He were dead and a deep and wide, dark red gash reached from ear to ear.

I whimpered before quickly pulling the robe up and slipping the phone into the elastic of my boxers.

Babypig, on hearing me, turned and said, ‘Oh, good, Danny. You’ve joined us at last and our quartet is now complete. OK,’ he said, coming over and pulling me to my feet, ‘to begin. We need me, you, Nirab and Shaznie to stand at the cardinal points, North, South, East and West. You will throw the youngster’s innards all over yourself while chanting this,’ he said, handing me a neatly folded page. ‘It’s Latin. The longer words are spelt out phonetically for you.’

‘This will be a very rewarding experience for you, let me say,’ continued Nirab.

‘And it helps,’ said Babypig, piping up, ‘that while you were in and out of consciousness there we gave you a solution to sip on, the boil off of the mushrooms you picked earlier: strong hallucinogens. It will make the ritual appear to you in such fantastical ways.’

As I looked around I saw that trees and shapes and shadows that most times, when tripping, would present themselves as things possessed of great promising divine purpose, now oozed doom-heavy malevolence. Things of massive evil made their presence felt all about me.

‘You don’t need to worry, Danny,’ said Nirab, ‘you’re not going to murder anyone tonight. You simply chop from his body, his legs or his arms, or, if you so prefer, his head.’

‘You told me I could decapitate him,’ squealed Shaznie.

‘Quiet, you pup,’ said Babypig, slapping Shaznie’s face. ‘So, Danny, care to do the honours?’

‘I’ll take a leg,’ I said.

A type of psychological H-Bomb had gone off between my ears. Now were the time to act, not react. Soon as I saw that Nirab, Babypig and Shaznie were getting to work dismembering the poor soul, I took my phone out and through a mesh of crisscrossing spider web thin lines, unseen energy made manifest by the mushrooms, I switched it onto camera-mode, hit record, and retreated back a few steps. Reaching the pile of clothes, I knelt down and propped the phone up against it, careful to make sure the lens poked up far enough to see all.

The trio made their way toward their respective cardinal points, flailing themselves with the boy’s gangly innards as they went.

‘Danny, you’re South,’ pointed Nirab.

I went, took an axe out of Nirab’s sports bag and approached the body. Taking a leg with three chops, I then walked over and stood where he’d pointed. I looked back once more to check the phone and the position of it in relation to where we all stood. To my relief it were the perfect vantage point to capture the whole sick production going down.

 

The event that unfolded were both a spectacular miracle set over that gentle pastoral backdrop, and, more specifically, the adepts’ magick revealing of esoteric secrets buried deep in the everyday. And all of it teased forth by simple, tuneful rites chanted in breathy mantras, (in the thin fog that’d now descended), that incrementally drew back the veil on the true nature of things.

Yet amidst all these types of energy vibrations and mysterious creatures that were drawn up from the woodland then, it set in my mind like fast drying wet cement that work were to be undertaken by myself, double time.

 

* * *

 

It took a couple of days getting the synapses realigned. When I’d everything back to normal upstairs, I fired the computer up and got online to find out what I could about Babypig and Nirab.

I spent half the day sourcing their actual names. Once I’d that sussed, everything else fell into place. Babypig, it turned out, were the recently retired head of a local children’s charity (quelle surprise) and Nirab a jack-of-all-trades, with business concerns, both big and small, registered all over the world. I got their email addresses from some online databank then traced the mobile number for little Shaznie.

‘Hello, Purdysburn Mental Hospital. How can I help you?’ twittered Shaznie, picking up after one ring.

‘Right there, you fuckin’ wee cunt. This is your old friend, Danny. Wondering if we can hook up again?’

‘Ah, ‘fraid not, Danny. Got a lot on this next week, next few weeks, matter of fact. Maybe after that.’

‘You set me up.’

‘It’s what they get me to do. Procuring patsies. But don’t worry, you’re only somebody to be used, to be put in the frame, if somebody else comes looking for the boy… which never happens.’

‘Aye, well, remember when that Nirab one told me what you fucks did the other day would be for me a very rewarding experience? Little does he know how rewarding.’

‘What you talkin’ about?’

‘I’m talkin’ about the footage I got on my phone. You lot throwing that boy’s bits around.’

‘What you tellin’ me for?’

‘You’re implicated. Peelers see this and you’ll be put away for a long time.’

‘You think you’re scaring me? I been doin’ bird all my young life, young gun. Stretch inside’s no skin off my nose.’

‘…well, then, how’s 500k apiece off those two bastards sound to you?’

‘Now yer talkin’ my language. Blackmail?’

‘Bingo.’

I met Shaznie in a grimy wee café on Bridge Street. He were dressed in a sparkly crop top, leather trousers and kitten heels. Old men with scrunched up faces sitting at neighbouring tables regarded him with disgust.

‘So what’s the plan, Danny?’ asked Shaznie blowing on a black coffee.

‘Going for the nuclear option, off the bat. Found out the pair’s personal email addresses—gonna send em the video, show em I’m not fuckin’ around. Tell em when and where to meet, how much to bring, etcetera. Tell em if they don’t comply I’ll send this video to newspapers, TV, put it on the internet. They try any funny stuff I’ve got a guy on the event of my death or disappearance who’ll put it around in lieu of me.’

‘You think the pair of em will be able to cough up 500k each?’

‘Sure, they have it, but it’ll break em. Doin’ the digging I’ve been, I’ve found out both are well off, but not megabucks. Anyway, to stop this from getting out? They’ll pay it.’

‘Radical,’ he said, blowing on the coffee some more.

I left Shaznie at the taxi rank at the top of Bridge Street then went round to the Central Library. Hardly 2 minutes passed from me sending out the email to Nirab and Babypig when the pair replied practically in tandem, with Babypig coolly requesting: …when and where do you desire to meet…, while Nirab were a little bit more beside himself with… Please! I cannot afford such a sum. I will have to sell my house.

In the email back to them both I said the place would be that clearing in the forest park where the terrible thing were done. The time, the next day, noon. For Nirab I wrote: Nirab, sell your house. Downsize. You don’t and you’ll find yourself downsized to a jail cell doing hard time. The choice is yours. I AM SERIOUS!

 

* * *

 

I’d not retrieved my motor from the front of that club yet, so arrangements were made that Shaznie would pick me up the next day at 11.30am.

Next day, half past comes and goes. It’s not till a quarter to that he comes tearing up my street, skidding to a short stop in front of me who’s waiting, freaking out, on the pavement.

‘Where were you?’ I said, panicky.

‘Car trouble. But it’s all good. I’ll get us there in a jiffy.’

We got to the Forest Park with 5 minutes to spare. Babypig’s Morris Minor were already parked up.

‘I know a short cut they don’t,’ said Shaznie.

‘Lead the way.’

I followed him up onto a small hill overlooking the clearing. Nirab and Babypig emerged from an overgrown path below. Both were carrying sports bags.

‘Looks like we’re ready to rock ‘n’ roll,’ said Shaznie. He led the way down the hill. I hung back a little, super-cautious.

Babypig stepped up first, pushing his bag into my person. ‘Big mistake, Danny. Terrible mistake.’

I ignored him and rifled through the dough, making sure it were all real and no paper like the hero would in an Action Movie Blockbuster.

Nirab were much more reluctant, holding his bag behind his back as if to hide it.

‘Hand it over, Nirab,’ I said.

‘Please, I beg of you. I can’t sell my house. Not in this climate. I’ll lose hundreds of thousands.’

‘Hand it over,’ said Babypig, hissing like a snake.

Nirab approached, cowed, his head bowed slightly.

‘Good man,’ I said, taking his bag off him. ‘Now gentlemen, I’m glad this were an entirely painless transaction all round… so without further ado, I bid you adieu.’

And with that poetical cue, I turned on my heel and ran like fuck back up that hill.

 

* * *

 

Shaznie went at a good speed along the carriageway going back into Belfast. Then, coming up on the city limits, he took a sneaky left, no indicator, onto a narrow country road.

‘Where’re we going?’ I asked.

‘Thought we’d take the scenic route back. Maybe stop and have a dirty wrestle somewhere?’

‘It’s too cold for that. Let’s go back to mine. We can count our money there.’

We drove for a good while along a potholed, windy bit before the road give out onto a long, wide, straight stretch. Shaznie put the foot down, but not too much.

Up ahead I spied the front of a motor poking out from behind a high hedge. It were making its way out onto the road, bit by tiny bit.

We got closer. The motor kept on coming… and coming.

And then, 20 foot or less to go, Shaznie guns the engine and we plough headfirst into the side of it: a Morris Minor, Series II. Babypig’s behind the wheel.

And in the split second between me putting a bod to that grey, empty face and the very moment of impact, I turn and see Shaznie looking at me, mouthing the word Sorry,when the front of his steering wheel pops away and the airbag emerges like a monstrous blooming tumour, and I still have the wherewithal to turn and face the dashboard, waiting for mine to appear and cushion the impact, but instead am met with a hail of metallic projectiles flying straight at me.

The aftermath’s like one of those drink & drive adverts they air to frighten people into being safer motorists. There is carnage, mainly centred around my head—I must’ve looked like a mentally handicapped’s rendering of Hellraiser.

I can’t feel my face, I thought, managing a grin.

Shaznie opened the driver’s side door and rolled out. Nirab and Babypig came round to either side of him and picked him up off the asphalt.

‘Told you, Danny,’ said Babypig, stooping in through the open door. ‘Told you you were making a big mistake. We call this wee booby-trap The Face Lift, cos you get your bake pinned back, see.’

Shaznie had a boke and went and leant against the scrunched up bonnet of his motor.

‘You’re a genius, Babypig,’ said Nirab, clapping his hands. He came round to my side then and leant in the window. Raising a big greener, he screwed up his face and with an evil look on him, gebbed right into my open wounds. ‘Blackmail? Ha! You think you were going to turn Shaznie? The thing we, he, belongs to offers rewards far greater than measly dinero… Now,’ he said, turning to Babypig and Shaznie, ‘shall we kill him?’

‘No,’ said Babypig. ‘Remember the email. He said somebody would put that video out if he disappeared. We’ll take him to hospital… And Danny, if you choose to put it out yourself, let me tell you—we have people watching your house, your land line’s tapped, and we’ve full access to your mobile and computer. So don’t even try it.’

 

* * *

 

The doctor that saw me at the hospital looked not far off 100 years old.

‘I can’t remember what happened to me,’ I told him.

‘I know what happened to you,’ he said. ‘Those two men that brought you here, they’re friends of mine. They told me everything.’

‘I see.’

‘Now,’ he said, straightening up. ‘There is mostly going to be superficial scarring with some deep permanent lacerations around the mid-forehead area. You could just tell people this is where they amputated your superfluous cranial penis, that’d make a splendid ice-breaker, and God knows you’re going to need one. Have you any questions?’

‘Anybody ever fucked with you people and got away with it?’

‘No.’

 

I discharged myself that afternoon and made a straight line for the nearest bar. The nurses had wrapped me up like the Invisible Man, with a hole for my mouth and two pairs of holes for my eyes and nostrils.

I made my way over to a table in a dark corner, checking my back pocket twice before sitting down. I sipped my G&T through a straw and smiled a little as I felt my heart lift all of one floor.

Going back from the rendezvous to Shaznie’s car I’d secreted a roll of dough in the lining of my tracksuit bottoms, in anticipation of any Funny Business. It weren’t 500k but it were enough to get me a holiday in Barbados and a few months easy time before I’d have to find another job. Gemini from work had left a voicemail on my phone that morning telling me I weren’t to come back.

‘…and Lindsey at reception will have your P45 for you. Everybody says they’re going to miss you. From myself and the management, Pongo: all the best.’

Sitting there twiddling my thumbs I listened to Gemini’s message again.

…All the best

And I drew from that workaday sentiment some piecemeal succour, before shutting my eyes against the gloom assembling all around.

 

Richard Barr lives and works in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. He’s had several short works published in the last year, in The Luminary, The Big Issue, Gruesome Grotesques Vol. 2 and comic book anthologies, Courageous Mayhem and Hold The Phones, It’s Alex Jones. He also received a Very Honourable Mention in the Weekend Writing Challenge offered by The Other Publishing Company. Previously, his screenplay, A Place For Everything, made the final round of Digital Shorts, a scheme run by Northern Ireland Screen and the BBC.

Website: http://downedalbitros.blogspot.co.uk/

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