Posted in The Street Crawlers

The Street Crawlers: The Soldiers of Hell

Daisy was running down the corridors. They were practically empty, though before they’d been full of screaming, panicking agents. She was panting hard as she ran. She wasn’t the most athletic of the soldiers and ever since she had joined the artillery division she hadn’t needed to train as much. Right now she regretted avoiding the gym as much as she had.

            There was a shadow behind her, following her every step. It was because of this that she was running. It was because of this that all of her colleagues had disappeared. The shadow was a prisoner, a prisoner that had escaped from their jail cells. In fact, no, Daisy thought, it was worse than a prisoner—it was a Street Crawler.

            It was because of the Street Crawlers that Daisy had joined the Soldiers’ Academy in the first place. She thought back to it now, still running. She could remember the smell of the office where her interview had taken place. The interviewer, who Daisy now knew as Danny, was a very young man, barely any older than herself, but he’d been raised in the soldiers’ base so there was nothing he didn’t know about it. He’d asked Daisy why she’d wanted to be a soldier. What did she think she could do for the world?

            The Street Crawlers had been her answer. She’d wanted to save the ordinaries from the beasts that were the Crawlers. And as to what she could do for the world, well, she was hoping that they could teach her; mould her into somebody who could do something. That’s why she wanted to come to the Academy in the first place, and she felt it was a silly question to ask. Who would come to learn what they already knew?

            At that point she thought she’d failed miserably. She’d always been far too honest for her own good. But obviously Danny saw something in her that could be of use because she was accepted almost immediately. Daisy still couldn’t believe her luck.

            But was it lucky now? She was being chased by the very thing that she wanted to save others from. She could hear its footsteps all around her, on the floor below her, on the walls surrounding, on the ceiling. How could it have got onto the ceiling?

            She hadn’t meant to be put into this situation. When she’d walked out of her flat with her friends and flatmates, Ant and Sammy, this morning she’d been just as surprised as them to see the panic spreading through the station. Instantly they’d stopped their silly shenanigans and run to their sectors, though Daisy thought she’d seen Sammy run to the main hub which wasn’t where she was supposed to go. Sammy worked with the team that sorted out travel for the agents (so that the operatives could get to all of the people around the world that needed help). It wasn’t a very helpful sector to be in at this time though so Daisy could understand it if Sammy didn’t go there.

            Daisy had reached the artillery sector and greeted her four co-workers. They were checking through the weaponry, making a note of anything missing and locking up the vaults as quickly as they possibly could. If the escapee managed to get their claws on any of these weapons nobody would be safe. Daisy had joined in and began pulling crates of guns and stun-blasters out from glass cases and into the piles ready to be taken to the vaults. The lights had been tampered with and security cameras were switching off one by one. Everybody in the division looked terrified. They could only do their job.

            That’s when Daisy had noticed that there was a crate missing. She’d remembered that Danny had borrowed the electric-rods for testing the day before and shouted to her commander to inform her that she was going to go and get them back. Cr. Berkeley had nodded in agreement and Daisy had run out of the room. She’d run to the hub and realised that the hallways had become scarily quiet. She didn’t think of it at the time. She’d assumed that everybody had managed to get their sectors and had stayed there. She hadn’t thought for one minute that they might not have had a choice.

            She reached the hub, where she assumed Danny would be helping his father (who was the commander of the entire station) but the door was locked. She tried swiping her hand over the lock. It should have recognized her hand print but it looked like the hub was on lockdown. She’d shrugged it off. The hub needed more protection than anywhere else. If it fell, the entire station would fall.

            She went to the computer labs next, Danny’s actual sector. If he’d been testing the rods anywhere it would be in there, but that too was locked. She’d shrugged it off again. She’d figured that if any place had to be protected after the hub it would be here. All of their records were on files in the computer lab.

            Slightly ashamed that she had failed in her task she’d ran back to her sector, hoping that Cr. Berkeley would understand why the rods weren’t with her. At least, she’d thought, they were safe in the locked rooms. Nobody would be able to get to them in there.

            She’d made it back to the artillery division only to find it locked as well. If her hand print hadn’t worked at the hub it should definitely have worked here. This was her sector. But the door wouldn’t budge. The alarms were silent and the back-up generator could only provide a dim light. Daisy had suddenly begun to feel nervous. Beforehand she’d been too focused on her task to realise the danger that was facing her, but now she knew.

            She knew even more now, as she was being followed by the shadow. She could feel her heart racing in her chest, her breath becoming shallow, and her legs were aching all over. There was an unbelievably painful stitch in her left side. But she couldn’t give up yet. The shadow hadn’t given up on trying to catch up with her.

            She ran into the only open door she could find. It was a blessing to discover that there was one. She’d thought she’d be running forever. She swiped her hand over the pad and the doors shut behind her with a crash. They weren’t the quietest doors in the world and she jumped, though she’d known it was coming. She collapsed onto the floor, out of breath.

            “Hey, do you mind, this is our hiding place,” said a high-pitched voice in the middle of the room. Daisy sat up, shakily. There were trucks parked in rows everywhere. It had been the garage door that had been left open.

            “Who’s there?” she asked, slowly crawling back to her feet. She could still feel her thighs and side burning.

            “It doesn’t matter who’s there, just get out.” The voice seemed annoyed. It wasn’t the only voice here with Daisy.

            “Be nice, Bobby,” a second, even higher-pitched voice said.

Daisy looked on in surprise as a girl’s head peeped over the top of one of the trucks. She’d never seen her before. In fact, she’d never seen anybody that looked so much like a Barbie doll. “Who’re you?” Daisy said.

            The girl didn’t smile but beckoned her over to the truck, disappearing again as soon as she had. Daisy went and looked down into the front seat. The blonde girl was sitting in the driver’s seat, looking cheerily at a miserable looking boy sitting in the passenger’s seat. The boy had brown hair, a square jaw and the brightest blue eyes Daisy had ever seen.

            She slid open the door of the truck and slipped into a seat behind theirs, closing the door after her. They’d had the right idea, she thought, there was nowhere safer to hide than an armoured vehicle in a quiet, heavily fortified garage.

            “Hi there,” the girl said, finally smiling. “It’s Daisy, right? Daisy Kennington?”

            Daisy nodded, shocked. She didn’t even want to question how she’d known that. Knowing Daisy’s luck they’d already met before and Daisy, with her absent-mindedness, had completely forgotten. She knew that, if anything, the Academy hadn’t accepted her for her memory. Her memory was strictly reserved for things that seemed important at the time.

            “I’m Gwen.” The girl pointed to herself. “And that bowl of joy over there is Bobby.”

            Bobby mock-waved and grimaced.

            “I keep telling him he should be happy. We could’ve been locked in a safe-room, but we’re free to run around in here instead.” Gwen was leaning on the wheel. Daisy was watching in fear. If Gwen leaned just a little bit further into the middle then the alarm would go off. She wasn’t entirely sure if the Crawler had figured out she was in here yet. For all they knew she might have ran into another corridor.

            “Yeah, but it’s not right is it,” Bobby grumbled. “Here we are waiting for Gray to show up, and she takes his place instead.” He pointed at her and Daisy pulled a face. What right had this boy to think she didn’t deserve to be here? She had as much right as him.

            “Gray’s not coming, Bobby, just get over it. They’ve probably got him locked up in the safe room by now.”

            Bobby sighed and leaned on the dashboard. “It just doesn’t feel right without him. We’re always in a three—buds forever, mates together, remember?”

            Gwen nodded and sighed too.

Daisy looked at them both. “I’m guessing this Gray’s a friend of yours?” she said.

            Bobby rolled his eyes and grinned. He had a really nice grin. “How’d you guess? The fact I said we were buds?”

            Daisy grinned back. “Something like that.” She took a proper look at the two children (or where they teenagers? She couldn’t tell) and realised they reminded her of someone. “I think I know how you feel,” she said. “I miss Ant and Sammy, too. They’re my best friends.”

            “The best one’s come in threes,” Bobby said, with a laugh. Gwen had started to grin as well.

            “It’s weird to think, but it was only about an hour ago that we were dancing around our flat together,” Daisy said. “I’d love it if they were with me now. I don’t even know if they’re okay.”

            “They probably will be.” Gwen was now leaning on the door instead of the wheel. “As far as we know nobody’s been hurt. And Sammy will probably be in one of the safe-rooms. All under twenties are in them.”

            “Nearly all,” Bobby objected. “We never got that far.” He turned to face Daisy and looked at her proudly. “A couple of agents were taking us when they got called back to the cells to help, so we ran off and hid in here instead.”

            “You ignored orders?” Daisy was appalled. She’d never have had the nerve to do that.

            “What orders? We don’t work for the soldiers, we just live here.” Bobby laughed. “They actually thought we’d go, too. You’d think they’d know better by now.”

            Gwen giggled and Daisy laughed too. There was something about these two children, she thought. Their happiness was contagious and so was their laughter. Ant had the same effect on her.

            “So what are you planning on doing? Just camping out in here until it’s over?” Daisy asked, her laughing finished.

            “Why, was that your plan?” Bobby looked at her, seriously.

Daisy shook her head, nodded and then shrugged. She didn’t know what her plan had been. “I just knew I needed to run,” she said. She looked down at her feet, ashamed, and sighed. “I should’ve stayed and done something.”

            “Why?” Gwen asked.

            “Because that’s what agents do—what soldiers do.”

            “Yes, and they die doing so.”

Bobby agreed with Gwen on this. “My mum always said that the best agents protected people, but how can you protect people if you’re already dead? It’s better to watch your enemy, learn from them and then act when it’s the right time.”

“And when is it the right time?” Daisy was quite enjoying their strange wisdoms.

“That’s up to you really, isn’t it?” Bobby stretched his arms out and yawned. “Me, personally? I’m not sure it’ll ever be time.”

“That’s just because you stayed up all last night watching stuff on the internet,” Gwen said, poking him. He jumped and poked her back. Soon a large poking war was going on and both of them were giggling hysterically.

There was a crash and the hood of the car flew open and then shut again. All three of its occupants flew into the air and down onto the floor.

Bobby rubbed his head and groaned. “I knew we should have put on seatbelts,” he grumbled.

Daisy got up onto the seat first and leaned closer to the window, trying to see outside. There was a large dint in the front right-hand side of the truck. Daisy looked up at the vent system on the roof. There was a hole in one of the pipes—about small person size.

Her eyes grew wider and she quickly pressed the button that activated the truck’s locks and shield. “Guys,” she said, “I think it might be time.”

Bobby and Gwen scrambled to their feet and looked out at the front of the truck. There was a body slowly climbing up off the floor. She was wearing a black prison uniform and rubbing her body all over as she stood up. It had been quite a big height to fall from and it had hurt.

“What do we do? What do we do?” Bobby panicked. He looked at Gwen and then at Daisy but neither of them seemed to be moving. They were barely breathing.

The Crawler turned around and saw them. Their blood ran cold. Her eyes were as silver as a fog. Nothing could be seen in them: not happiness, not pain, not anything. She was blank.

She moved closer to the window and, instinctively Bobby (who was the closet to her) shuffled over onto Gwen’s seat, almost crushing her in the process. Gwen was too scared to notice.

“Soldiers!” The Copper Fox stared at them through the glass and hit the window with her fist. Daisy jumped and moved over to Gwen as well.

“No, no. There’s no soldiers here,” Bobby mumbled. “We’re—erm—we’re clowns. I don’t suppose you’ve seen the circus around here, have you?”

The Copper Fox sneered and it sent a shiver down Bobby’s spine. “Clowns? What, that’s the best you can come up with?”

“Well, it was either that or plumbers and I didn’t think that’d be very believable.” Bobby shrugged awkwardly. Gwen came back to her senses and poked him in his side. Her leg was starting to fall asleep.

The Copper Fox laughed. To Daisy’s surprise it wasn’t a horrible laugh, it sounded just the same as a normal little girl’s would. It sounded like an even sweeter version of Gwen’s laugh in fact, but Daisy wasn’t going to let this fool her. She knew that Crawler’s were killers, no matter what their laugh was like.

The Fox moved even closer to the window and Bobby clambered further onto Gwen’s lap, much to her dismay. She punched him but no amount of punching would make him move. Daisy looked down at the panic on their faces and remembered what she had said at her interview for the Academy. Though the interview had been a couple of years ago now (she’d left the Academy last year, after all) she still believed what she’d said. She had to protect people from Crawlers like this one. She prepared her nerve and was just about to step forward and open the door when the Copper Fox stepped back.

“Where’s the way out?” she asked.

Bobby and Gwen both pointed left, where a large garage door was waiting to be opened. The Fox nodded and ran away. The three occupants of the truck let out a sigh of relief as the sound of grating metal came through the room. The Fox had managed to open the door and had run off back to the streets.

Daisy slid open the door of the truck and looked out. The two kids looked out after her. They all clambered out into the garage as the lights of the station came back on. All around them, rooms that had been locked were slowly opening. The crowds had begun to fill the corridors again.

Daisy looked at Bobby and Gwen and they looked at her.

“How about we agree not to say anything about this?” Daisy said. She couldn’t bear to admit anymore failures on her part today.

“So, just an ordinary day then? Cool.” Bobby nudged Gwen in the side. “Come on, let’s go find Gray.”

Gwen nodded with a smile and they both ran out of the garage. Daisy watched them for a moment and then thought about the Copper Fox again. A Street Crawler had let them go? That couldn’t be right, could it?

Daisy was running down the corridors. They were practically empty, though before they’d been full of screaming, panicking agents. She was panting hard as she ran. She wasn’t the most athletic of the soldiers and ever since she had joined the artillery division she hadn’t needed to train as much. Right now she regretted avoiding the gym as much as she had.

            There was a shadow behind her, following her every step. It was because of this that she was running. It was because of this that all of her colleagues had disappeared. The shadow was a prisoner, a prisoner that had escaped from their jail cells. In fact, no, Daisy thought, it was worse than a prisoner—it was a Street Crawler.

            It was because of the Street Crawlers that Daisy had joined the Soldiers’ Academy in the first place. She thought back to it now, still running. She could remember the smell of the office where her interview had taken place. The interviewer, who Daisy now knew as Danny, was a very young man, barely any older than herself, but he’d been raised in the soldiers’ base so there was nothing he didn’t know about it. He’d asked Daisy why she’d wanted to be a soldier. What did she think she could do for the world?

            The Street Crawlers had been her answer. She’d wanted to save the ordinaries from the beasts that were the Crawlers. And as to what she could do for the world, well, she was hoping that they could teach her; mould her into somebody who could do something. That’s why she wanted to come to the Academy in the first place, and she felt it was a silly question to ask. Who would come to learn what they already knew?

            At that point she thought she’d failed miserably. She’d always been far too honest for her own good. But obviously Danny saw something in her that could be of use because she was accepted almost immediately. Daisy still couldn’t believe her luck.

            But was it lucky now? She was being chased by the very thing that she wanted to save others from. She could hear its footsteps all around her, on the floor below her, on the walls surrounding, on the ceiling. How could it have got onto the ceiling?

            She hadn’t meant to be put into this situation. When she’d walked out of her flat with her friends and flatmates, Ant and Sammy, this morning she’d been just as surprised as them to see the panic spreading through the station. Instantly they’d stopped their silly shenanigans and run to their sectors, though Daisy thought she’d seen Sammy run to the main hub which wasn’t where she was supposed to go. Sammy worked with the team that sorted out travel for the agents (so that the operatives could get to all of the people around the world that needed help). It wasn’t a very helpful sector to be in at this time though so Daisy could understand it if Sammy didn’t go there.

            Daisy had reached the artillery sector and greeted her four co-workers. They were checking through the weaponry, making a note of anything missing and locking up the vaults as quickly as they possibly could. If the escapee managed to get their claws on any of these weapons nobody would be safe. Daisy had joined in and began pulling crates of guns and stun-blasters out from glass cases and into the piles ready to be taken to the vaults. The lights had been tampered with and security cameras were switching off one by one. Everybody in the division looked terrified. They could only do their job.

            That’s when Daisy had noticed that there was a crate missing. She’d remembered that Danny had borrowed the electric-rods for testing the day before and shouted to her commander to inform her that she was going to go and get them back. Cr. Berkeley had nodded in agreement and Daisy had run out of the room. She’d run to the hub and realised that the hallways had become scarily quiet. She didn’t think of it at the time. She’d assumed that everybody had managed to get their sectors and had stayed there. She hadn’t thought for one minute that they might not have had a choice.

            She reached the hub, where she assumed Danny would be helping his father (who was the commander of the entire station) but the door was locked. She tried swiping her hand over the lock. It should have recognized her hand print but it looked like the hub was on lockdown. She’d shrugged it off. The hub needed more protection than anywhere else. If it fell, the entire station would fall.

            She went to the computer labs next, Danny’s actual sector. If he’d been testing the rods anywhere it would be in there, but that too was locked. She’d shrugged it off again. She’d figured that if any place had to be protected after the hub it would be here. All of their records were on files in the computer lab.

            Slightly ashamed that she had failed in her task she’d ran back to her sector, hoping that Cr. Berkeley would understand why the rods weren’t with her. At least, she’d thought, they were safe in the locked rooms. Nobody would be able to get to them in there.

            She’d made it back to the artillery division only to find it locked as well. If her hand print hadn’t worked at the hub it should definitely have worked here. This was her sector. But the door wouldn’t budge. The alarms were silent and the back-up generator could only provide a dim light. Daisy had suddenly begun to feel nervous. Beforehand she’d been too focused on her task to realise the danger that was facing her, but now she knew.

            She knew even more now, as she was being followed by the shadow. She could feel her heart racing in her chest, her breath becoming shallow, and her legs were aching all over. There was an unbelievably painful stitch in her left side. But she couldn’t give up yet. The shadow hadn’t given up on trying to catch up with her.

            She ran into the only open door she could find. It was a blessing to discover that there was one. She’d thought she’d be running forever. She swiped her hand over the pad and the doors shut behind her with a crash. They weren’t the quietest doors in the world and she jumped, though she’d known it was coming. She collapsed onto the floor, out of breath.

            “Hey, do you mind, this is our hiding place,” said a high-pitched voice in the middle of the room. Daisy sat up, shakily. There were trucks parked in rows everywhere. It had been the garage door that had been left open.

            “Who’s there?” she asked, slowly crawling back to her feet. She could still feel her thighs and side burning.

            “It doesn’t matter who’s there, just get out.” The voice seemed annoyed. It wasn’t the only voice here with Daisy.

            “Be nice, Bobby,” a second, even higher-pitched voice said.

Daisy looked on in surprise as a girl’s head peeped over the top of one of the trucks. She’d never seen her before. In fact, she’d never seen anybody that looked so much like a Barbie doll. “Who’re you?” Daisy said.

            The girl didn’t smile but beckoned her over to the truck, disappearing again as soon as she had. Daisy went and looked down into the front seat. The blonde girl was sitting in the driver’s seat, looking cheerily at a miserable looking boy sitting in the passenger’s seat. The boy had brown hair, a square jaw and the brightest blue eyes Daisy had ever seen.

            She slid open the door of the truck and slipped into a seat behind theirs, closing the door after her. They’d had the right idea, she thought, there was nowhere safer to hide than an armoured vehicle in a quiet, heavily fortified garage.

            “Hi there,” the girl said, finally smiling. “It’s Daisy, right? Daisy Kennington?”

            Daisy nodded, shocked. She didn’t even want to question how she’d known that. Knowing Daisy’s luck they’d already met before and Daisy, with her absent-mindedness, had completely forgotten. She knew that, if anything, the Academy hadn’t accepted her for her memory. Her memory was strictly reserved for things that seemed important at the time.

            “I’m Gwen.” The girl pointed to herself. “And that bowl of joy over there is Bobby.”

            Bobby mock-waved and grimaced.

            “I keep telling him he should be happy. We could’ve been locked in a safe-room, but we’re free to run around in here instead.” Gwen was leaning on the wheel. Daisy was watching in fear. If Gwen leaned just a little bit further into the middle then the alarm would go off. She wasn’t entirely sure if the Crawler had figured out she was in here yet. For all they knew she might have ran into another corridor.

            “Yeah, but it’s not right is it,” Bobby grumbled. “Here we are waiting for Gray to show up, and she takes his place instead.” He pointed at her and Daisy pulled a face. What right had this boy to think she didn’t deserve to be here? She had as much right as him.

            “Gray’s not coming, Bobby, just get over it. They’ve probably got him locked up in the safe room by now.”

            Bobby sighed and leaned on the dashboard. “It just doesn’t feel right without him. We’re always in a three—buds forever, mates together, remember?”

            Gwen nodded and sighed too.

Daisy looked at them both. “I’m guessing this Gray’s a friend of yours?” she said.

            Bobby rolled his eyes and grinned. He had a really nice grin. “How’d you guess? The fact I said we were buds?”

            Daisy grinned back. “Something like that.” She took a proper look at the two children (or where they teenagers? She couldn’t tell) and realised they reminded her of someone. “I think I know how you feel,” she said. “I miss Ant and Sammy, too. They’re my best friends.”

            “The best one’s come in threes,” Bobby said, with a laugh. Gwen had started to grin as well.

            “It’s weird to think, but it was only about an hour ago that we were dancing around our flat together,” Daisy said. “I’d love it if they were with me now. I don’t even know if they’re okay.”

            “They probably will be.” Gwen was now leaning on the door instead of the wheel. “As far as we know nobody’s been hurt. And Sammy will probably be in one of the safe-rooms. All under twenties are in them.”

            “Nearly all,” Bobby objected. “We never got that far.” He turned to face Daisy and looked at her proudly. “A couple of agents were taking us when they got called back to the cells to help, so we ran off and hid in here instead.”

            “You ignored orders?” Daisy was appalled. She’d never have had the nerve to do that.

            “What orders? We don’t work for the soldiers, we just live here.” Bobby laughed. “They actually thought we’d go, too. You’d think they’d know better by now.”

            Gwen giggled and Daisy laughed too. There was something about these two children, she thought. Their happiness was contagious and so was their laughter. Ant had the same effect on her.

            “So what are you planning on doing? Just camping out in here until it’s over?” Daisy asked, her laughing finished.

            “Why, was that your plan?” Bobby looked at her, seriously.

Daisy shook her head, nodded and then shrugged. She didn’t know what her plan had been. “I just knew I needed to run,” she said. She looked down at her feet, ashamed, and sighed. “I should’ve stayed and done something.”

            “Why?” Gwen asked.

            “Because that’s what agents do—what soldiers do.”

            “Yes, and they die doing so.”

Bobby agreed with Gwen on this. “My mum always said that the best agents protected people, but how can you protect people if you’re already dead? It’s better to watch your enemy, learn from them and then act when it’s the right time.”

“And when is it the right time?” Daisy was quite enjoying their strange wisdoms.

“That’s up to you really, isn’t it?” Bobby stretched his arms out and yawned. “Me, personally? I’m not sure it’ll ever be time.”

“That’s just because you stayed up all last night watching stuff on the internet,” Gwen said, poking him. He jumped and poked her back. Soon a large poking war was going on and both of them were giggling hysterically.

There was a crash and the hood of the car flew open and then shut again. All three of its occupants flew into the air and down onto the floor.

Bobby rubbed his head and groaned. “I knew we should have put on seatbelts,” he grumbled.

Daisy got up onto the seat first and leaned closer to the window, trying to see outside. There was a large dint in the front right-hand side of the truck. Daisy looked up at the vent system on the roof. There was a hole in one of the pipes—about small person size.

Her eyes grew wider and she quickly pressed the button that activated the truck’s locks and shield. “Guys,” she said, “I think it might be time.”

Bobby and Gwen scrambled to their feet and looked out at the front of the truck. There was a body slowly climbing up off the floor. She was wearing a black prison uniform and rubbing her body all over as she stood up. It had been quite a big height to fall from and it had hurt.

“What do we do? What do we do?” Bobby panicked. He looked at Gwen and then at Daisy but neither of them seemed to be moving. They were barely breathing.

The Crawler turned around and saw them. Their blood ran cold. Her eyes were as silver as a fog. Nothing could be seen in them: not happiness, not pain, not anything. She was blank.

She moved closer to the window and, instinctively Bobby (who was the closet to her) shuffled over onto Gwen’s seat, almost crushing her in the process. Gwen was too scared to notice.

“Soldiers!” The Copper Fox stared at them through the glass and hit the window with her fist. Daisy jumped and moved over to Gwen as well.

“No, no. There’s no soldiers here,” Bobby mumbled. “We’re—erm—we’re clowns. I don’t suppose you’ve seen the circus around here, have you?”

The Copper Fox sneered and it sent a shiver down Bobby’s spine. “Clowns? What, that’s the best you can come up with?”

“Well, it was either that or plumbers and I didn’t think that’d be very believable.” Bobby shrugged awkwardly. Gwen came back to her senses and poked him in his side. Her leg was starting to fall asleep.

The Copper Fox laughed. To Daisy’s surprise it wasn’t a horrible laugh, it sounded just the same as a normal little girl’s would. It sounded like an even sweeter version of Gwen’s laugh in fact, but Daisy wasn’t going to let this fool her. She knew that Crawler’s were killers, no matter what their laugh was like.

The Fox moved even closer to the window and Bobby clambered further onto Gwen’s lap, much to her dismay. She punched him but no amount of punching would make him move. Daisy looked down at the panic on their faces and remembered what she had said at her interview for the Academy. Though the interview had been a couple of years ago now (she’d left the Academy last year, after all) she still believed what she’d said. She had to protect people from Crawlers like this one. She prepared her nerve and was just about to step forward and open the door when the Copper Fox stepped back.

“Where’s the way out?” she asked.

Bobby and Gwen both pointed left, where a large garage door was waiting to be opened. The Fox nodded and ran away. The three occupants of the truck let out a sigh of relief as the sound of grating metal came through the room. The Fox had managed to open the door and had run off back to the streets.

Daisy slid open the door of the truck and looked out. The two kids looked out after her. They all clambered out into the garage as the lights of the station came back on. All around them, rooms that had been locked were slowly opening. The crowds had begun to fill the corridors again.

Daisy looked at Bobby and Gwen and they looked at her.

“How about we agree not to say anything about this?” Daisy said. She couldn’t bear to admit anymore failures on her part today.

“So, just an ordinary day then? Cool.” Bobby nudged Gwen in the side. “Come on, let’s go find Gray.”

Gwen nodded with a smile and they both ran out of the garage. Daisy watched them for a moment and then thought about the Copper Fox again. A Street Crawler had let them go? That couldn’t be right, could it?

She shrugged it off, as was her way. No, of course she hadn’t. No doubt the Crawler just had other motives for not hurting them. But, no matter what she did, from this moment on Daisy would never be able to look at Crawlers the same way—especially the girl she soon knew as The Copper Fox. But that’s another story now, isn’t it? 

And the Beast Doth Howl

Do you hear it? Do you hear it?

Do you hear its painful howl?

Do you hear it? Do you hear it?

Do you hear its horrid growl?

Did you see its gnashing teeth

As it dragged you into hell?

Did you see the fumes escaping

As you were locked inside its cell?

Did the soldiers grab you fiercely,

Tear you limb from limb?

Did they leave you for the beast

So that it could have the kill?

The Beast doth howls

Hollering and hovering.

It crawls over roads and roadways

Hunting for its kill.

It howls inside the boxes.

It hollers on the steps.

It groans and groans and squeals,

The Crawlers’ sign of death.

Do you hear it? Do you hear it?

Did you hear its cheerful crunch?

Did you see the jagged teeth

As it ate you up for lunch?

Did the soldiers come in armour

And drag you to its doors?

Did you smell the fumes escaping

As it crunched you in its jaws?

Did it crash and crack and burn you

As you settled in its belly?

Did it play with you and tug on you,

Its own personal, delicious deli?

The Beast doth howls

Hollering and hovering.

It crawls over roads and roadways

Hunting for its kill.

It howls inside the boxes.

It hollers on the steps.

It groans and groans and squeals,

The Crawlers’ sign of death.

Do you fear it? Do you fear it?

Did you fear its satisfaction?

Did you realise the suffering brought

On every interaction?

Do you remember? Do you remember

The sounds of screams, of desperation

As it tore away your family

Who had no means for segregation?

Did you run or try to hide

Whilst they suffered in its shell?

Did you do what the bravest have tried

And the fools have yet to tell?

The Beast doth howls

Hollering and hovering.

It crawls over roads and roadways

Looking for its kill.

Its master sits behind him,

Soldiers swarming over steps.

He pulls the siren as a warning,The Crawlers’ sign of death.

Posted in How to Write

Editing an Old Piece

Looking for the smallest mistake in a sea of sentences.

It’s arguably the worst part about writing. It sucks all life out of the piece, makes you feel less confident in your words minute by minute and overall is something you would rather somebody else did for you (and yet something you also wouldn’t entrust to another person, in case they completely tear it apart). I, of course, am talking about that dreaded word—editing.

            There’s no other way to say it: editing is the worst. In fact, that’s wrong—editing your own work is the worst (I actually enjoy editing other people’s work, hence why I used to do it for Fanfiction writers). So, to help you learn how to edit your own piece (and exactly why I don’t enjoy it) I’m going to take an old piece of mine and edit it for a blog post. Yay. Okay, let’s get this started, shall we?

            So, the piece I’m going to use is one I believe I wrote when I was seventeen. It was a short story but extremely amateurish because of my age when it was written. To give some context: I was much more a poet back then than a fiction writer, meaning there were metaphors abound; I knew the character fairly well as she had been created when I was around ten or eleven; lastly, I have to say that I’m fully aware this is not me at my best, so apologies in advance.

            For this post, let’s focus on the first paragraph:

‘I am Rebecca and I am a recovering Photoholic.

Ever since I can remember I’ve had a long lasting infatuation with cameras. I never did much with the being on screen myself, but behind it was like a playground my imagination could explore. Everything seemed so much more toned and exciting from the little box on the back of the digital screen than in the reality of it all. I would spend hours on a night editing the footage of the day onto small compact discs or tapes and catalogue them into my ever-expanding filing system.’

The first thing I noticed is that the second paragraph needs to be indented. This, along with many other layout problems, is something that I automatically set before I start writing these days but didn’t know back then.

‘I am Rebecca and I am a recovering Photoholic.

Ever since I can remember I’ve had a long lasting infatuation with cameras. I never did much with the being on screen myself, but behind it was like a playground my imagination could explore. Everything seemed so much more toned and exciting from the little box on the back of the digital screen than in the reality of it all. I would spend hours on a night editing the footage of the day onto small compact discs or tapes and catalogue them into my ever-expanding filing system.’

As you can see from above, I’ve added the indent and actually changed the font and spacing to make it easier to read. Now that I’m happy with the layout, let’s take a look at the words. Okay, so despite the word ‘photoholic’ not being a real one I’m going to count it as a neologism. Knowing this character well enough I would say that she is likely to make up words, as she wouldn’t know the actual word for what she wants to say. However, in the second line, I think it loses something by saying ‘long-lasting infatuation’. She’s only a thirteen year old girl and implies future tense or a longer period than it actually has been. Also, infatuation implies a short-amount of time, whereas she has a continuing obsession with a camera.

            Let’s change the line to: ‘Ever since I can remember I’ve had a passionate obsession with cameras’—this then keeps the oxymoron (passion being good and obsession being bad, showing her conflicting feelings) but changes it to what it actually is.

            The next line goes back to what I originally said about my being more of a poet than a fiction writer, back when I was seventeen. I have a tendency in old works to use badly worded, almost cringy metaphors to describe things that could be described more simply. So, let’s say it simply, shall we?: ‘I’ve never enjoyed being on camera myself but capturing others’ lives on film inspired my imagination.’

            Now that we’ve had three shorter lines in a row, we desperately need a longer line to keep the flow. This means we’ll have to merge the two continuing subjects or add another relevant one in between them.

            Reading through it, I’ve actually decided on a third option: I’m going to delete the fourth line completely, which is redundant and doesn’t add anything new to the piece, and move straight onto the longer fifth line. This paragraph now reads:

‘I am Rebecca and I am a recovering Photoholic.

Ever since I can remember I’ve had a passionate obsession with cameras. I never enjoyed being on camera myself but capturing others’ lives on film inspired my imagination. I would spend hours on a night editing the footage of the day onto small compact discs or tapes and catalogue them into my ever-expanding filing system.’

Now, you see why it takes so long? And why it’s so heart-breaking, especially when the piece is more recent than this one? You end up deleting words/lines/paragraphs/even entire chapters, changing words, researching new words or meanings of some words—it takes a lot of effort and a lot of it you have to be harsh with and ask yourself: Is this important? Do I need this?

            I used to simply delete them completely but discovered this was counterproductive. I highly recommend to you to have a document ready to cut and paste all of these ‘deleted’ lines etc. into. Whilst they don’t work in the piece you’re editing they may work somewhere else, or they may even inspire a new piece.

            In fact, as a fun exercise (and to cheer yourself up after all of your hard ripping apart) take one of these sentences and write an entirely new piece around it. What do you end up with?

            Thank you for reading and I hope you make it through your own editing.

Posted in The Street Crawlers

The Street Crawlers: The Copper Fox

The Copper Fox grew just like normal children, and may even be counted as being a child, but never could they say that she was normal. Whilst normal children breathed in normal air she would breathe in the cold, black dust that lay on the street floor with upmost pleasure and yet never did she find that the air was unclean. To her the fresh air was a poisonous substance that should never touch the lungs of an average human being; and if any other Street Crawler dared to enter this strange other world then she would drag them back into their sanity without a second thought.

Plain Jane feared this other world; for that’s what it was, a new world with new creatures and a new landscape. A place even she didn’t dare to capture. To her the black alleys were the safest place to stand and eat, but even in the streets she didn’t dare to sleep heavily for fear that they would disappear whilst she was gone.

She saw herself as the protector of her home, the protector of her tenants, and the protector of their souls. Her tenants didn’t agree. They feared her more than anything else on the other side and they would do anything to escape her reach. Just when you thought you were close to reaching a normal care-free life, just when you reached your hand out to a nice semi-detached family house, her claw would fall onto your shoulder and pull you back in.

Everything around the Crawlers was the enemy and when you struggled to trust anyone, your life was bound to be something of a horror.

Many would argue that horrors in films or ancient old stories of monsters and demons were what created fear; the idea of winged creatures attacking from far above sends chills up spines; faces appearing through the darkness and the dank intimidates the mind and entices dark visions into imaginations. The Ordinaries feared these fictional monsters much more than they feared any man-eating reality hidden inside the deepest depths of the wild.

And yet the Street Crawlers knew the truth of what this fear really was. The Copper Fox wasn’t feared for being a monster; she wasn’t feared for sucking the blood from innocent victims; every Crawler knew that the Fox couldn’t harm them in a way that a Fairy Tale monster could, but she still remained an entity to run and hide from.

And why? Because you never knew what she would do next or where she was now. You could never know when she would walk up to you and demand payment. You could never know what she would do to you if you said no to her orders. Every person who could tell you the answer had never been seen again.

Yet though she remained a mystery rumours circulated of the sheer viciousness of her heart. The Fox didn’t feed on blood; she fed on life and the timidity that she garnered from the stories. Humans were so easy to scare. It wasn’t hard for her to collect her treat.

Arnold Barnett hadn’t been on the streets long before he was roughly pulled behind a large wooden crate. He looked up into the face of a tall, hairy ape-like man who held a finger to his lips and kept a hold upon his shoulder. The man, over six-feet tall, shivered in the cold of the night and kept his eyes closed in prayer and his breath slow so as not to be heard.

  Arnold stared around him, dazed; he didn’t dare pull away from the large man’s grasp. He was sure he couldn’t if he tried. A shadow rounded the corner and the man’s grip grew tighter, crushing his thumb and finger into the sides of Arnold’s neck. Arnold wriggled around, trying to call out to his holder but couldn’t and they both fell silent. A rat’s beady black eyes glinted beside Arnold, backing away from his hand as he reached out to balance himself on the floor. Arnold didn’t notice that the rat was there, even though he had been conditioned in his normal life to fear the dirt-ridden creatures.

A small light shone upon the walls and a whistle sounded from nearby. The man beside Arnold shook himself and let out his held breath with a flourish. It was safe.

He stood up and walked nonchalantly past the young man beside him as if nothing had happened, as if Arnold wasn’t even there.

Another man moved forward into the opening, holding a large fire lamp high above his head. Arnold realised, worriedly, that a large gathering of sub-humans were appearing from around the alleys, many twice his size and possibly strength.  Any of these men could beat him to the floor with just one blow, taking his life in the process; and surely these Street Crawlers wouldn’t hesitate to be rid of him if he stepped out of line? The stories he’d heard of them had made them out to be selfish, hard-hearted barely-humans and their appearance struck him as proving this personality type to be true.

He heard muttering amongst them and they nodded to one another. The man holding the lamp turned to look in Arnold’s direction and noticed his eyes peering over the top of the large crate. He whispered something into the ear of the ape-man and moved over to the wall. Arnold ducked down further as he came close.

“There’s no need to be afraid. There’s no danger around at the moment.” The man spoke with a softness in his voice, which was in complete contrast to his harsh appearance. In the light Arnold could see the man more clearly. The man’s hands were brushing against the brickwork, rubbed raw and red from his many years wandering over the streets; and his eyes, a deep lucid green, were cradled by black hammocks.

“Wh—What—What were you hiding from?” Arnold asked. His knees shook as his imagination ran every haunting image of his Ghost-Story-Filled Ordinary childhood, trying to conjure up anything that could possibly scare this crowd of giants. He couldn’t stand up.

It was another one of the men that answered. “The Fox has been seen in the area,” he said. “But they must have passed by without stopping. They do that sometimes.”

“They do that all the time,” the first man Arnold had met grumbled. “I’m fed up with it.”

“We all are,” the man closest to Arnold said. He reached out his red paw to Arnold and Arnold cautiously took it, not feeling like he had any other choice. At the minute they seemed to be in a good mood—at least towards him. He wanted to keep it that way.

The man noticed how nervous Arnold was as he got up onto his feet, legs quivering under his tissue-thin trousers and he patted him softly on the back. “You’re a newbie, aren’t you?” he said. “You don’t need to fear this crew. We’ll help you, I promise.”

“You’ll help me get out of here?” Arnold asked.

The men all shook their heads, the majority of them grimacing.

“Nobody leaves the streets, Newbie,” the ape-man said. “I’m sorry about how rough I was with you before. I didn’t realise you were a new one. We’ve lost more than we’ve gained recently.”

“What do you mean?” Arnold said, rubbing the dust off his jacket. He’d only bought it a couple of weeks ago and it had been expensive. He didn’t like the fact that it already had holes in it from yesterday night’s camp-out under a building site near to the streets.

“Ah, pay no attention to Hard Paws,” the red-handed man said. “He just means that we’ve had a few things happening recently—a lot of them Fox and Beast related.”

“What?” Arnold didn’t know what either of those things meant, but he knew they couldn’t be good. The Street Crawlers had been the beasts in his stories growing up. He imagined that anything the Crawlers called a Beast would be even worse—if that was possible.

“You’ll learn,” Hard Paws said, rubbing his arm. He was looking at the cracks in the floor miserably. “You give up a lot when you get here. Have you got any family?”

Arnold shook his head. “I was an only child. My parents died.”

“Any partner? Wife? Husband?” Red-Hand asked.

“No.”

“So I guess that means you don’t have any kids then?” Hard Paws looked at him expectantly.

Arnold felt bad that he had to shake his head.

Hard Paws sighed and looked down at the cracks again. “You’re a lucky one then.”

“Lucky? I’m stuck on the Streets, aren’t I? How am I lucky?” Arnold said, his voice raised as much as he dared.

Red-Hand threw his hand over Arnold’s mouth, holding a finger to his own lips. “Don’t talk like that. We don’t know for sure that the Fox has gone.” He let go and his arms dropped to his sides, limply. “And the streets aren’t that bad a place to be. I can think of worse.”

Arnold followed his eyes as he looked upwards but he couldn’t see anything there.

Red-Hand clearly didn’t either because he quickly looked back to his crew again. “We should move on before they get back here.”

The crew nodded; all except Hard Paws who wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone anymore. His eyes were glazed, images of memories seeming to haunt him and trap him inside his own mind. Arnold shuddered, praying that he didn’t turn out the same way.

The Crawlers started to walk back into the darkness and Arnold watched them go, sadly. He didn’t know what he should do. He didn’t trust the walls or the boxes or the stones or the cracks. It was like he had walked towards the gates to Hell and he didn’t know how to claw his way back up to the clouds. He missed being an Ordinary person. Everything was so much simpler then. He couldn’t seem to find an answer in all of the stories he’d been told growing up. You couldn’t exactly just cast a spell or find a fairy to help you out. Arnold wished he had a fairy right now.

One of the crew stopped before disappearing. Arnold had thought it was a man because of their spiky hair, but honestly they could have been anything. They were covered in so much dirt that any amount of stylish clothing they may have once worn was barely recognizable. In actual truth she was a woman that the rest of her crew called Pegasus. Her Ordinary name had been Lilith.

“Are you coming, Newbie?” she asked, kindly.

“You want me to come with you? But I thought Street Crawlers…”

“They look out for each other. They always do. You need them, trust me.” She looked Arnold up and down. His legs and arms were skinny and underused. He kept brushing the dust off his fancy jacket. She sighed. She’d seen his type plenty of times before. Heck, once upon a time she’d been his type. “You don’t want to have to face the Fox,” she said. “And despite what the others say I know they’re not far away.”

Arnold gulped. The howl he’d heard last night when he’d been chucked out into the streets played in his mind. He hoped to god that that wasn’t the Fox everybody was so afraid of. It had frightened him enough just to hear it. “H—How do you know?” he squeaked, checking all around him. He still couldn’t see anything.

Pegasus turned around and started following her crew. “Because they’re always somewhere near.”

There was a howl. Arnold heard it and jumped up in fright. Pegasus had turned her walk into a run. There was no doubt her crew were diving for shelter wherever they were.

Arnold saw the loneliness he was facing if he stayed where he was and couldn’t stand it. He might have been an only child but that didn’t mean he wanted to be an only one forever. He chased after Pegasus, slightly afraid of losing her as she was as flighty and quick as her name suggested.

Plain Jane was counting some money out in another street. She heard the howl and tutted. She knew what that sound meant and she quickly climbed a ladder on a nearby wall, moving as silently and carefully as the Copper Fox should.

Whoever it was, they were going to get help—one way or another. After all, the Howler was her tenant and she had to protect them. She was always diligent with her job. Always.

The Copper Fox Hum

Dum Dum de da.

The Crawlers come out to play.

La la la la.

Thinking it could have been a better day.

‘Cause days feel like years

In the damp, matted street,

Where even the tiniest of whistles

Has lost its tune and its beat.

La la de da, la dum de du.

Lost of the even smallest of tunes.

So one simple beat from a

Street Crawler’s mouth

Makes it seem deranged,

No beats and no count.

Dum la la, de da de da.

The noise of a passing saint wandering far.

The Copper Fox, its whiskers bent low.

A small little child with a small little note.

Lost of its family,

Lost of its kin

But still in the dread

It holds out to sing.

Its friends have all gone.

Its pack leader now dead.

But still it sings.

On this it is fed.

Me oh ma, la ti ti.

Could their possibly be an angel

In those notes and those strings?

The Street Crawlers come to know

The sinister child hidden in the notes,

For although they are dainty, pretty and gay

They speak what they know

And know what they say.

A ray mi far

From this soft copper throat

Sends the Street Crawlers back hiding

Where they too sing the note…

La ti a, brrrrrrrummmm

Ti tummmmmmm.

A beat to the Street Crawlers is a Copper Fox’s hummmmmmm…………

Posted in How to Write

How To Write Characters.

From Stick Men to Humans to Everything In-Between

Sitting down and thinking through my ideas for blog posts (of which there was a horrendously long list, so apologies) I had to move this idea to the top of my pile. Characters are, for me, the most important parts of a story—and I don’t feel like I’m exaggerating to say that in some way, characters are the main things you should focus on in your planning stages.     Let me explain myself. There was a vague theory I remember agreeing with whilst I was studying for my degree, in which it was suggested that there were actually only a small handful of plots available to the hard-working author. Although these plots could blend into each other, try to make a difference with their twists and turns and blend of genres, there could never be really anything new to come out of them. So, how, if a plot has been read so many times over the centuries of human existence, do they feel fresh and invigorating every time? My answer: the characters.

            Think about your favourite books. What’s the main thing you remember from them? If I asked you—what happened on page… 63, let’s say, could you tell me the important plot point that was happening? I’m assuming, and honestly hoping, you’re saying no (although if you do remember, kudos to you, my friend). Now, if I ask you to tell me the name of the lead character? ……. Did you get it? If I asked what s/he was like? … If I continued to ask what you liked about them? … And then, if I asked you what they got up to in the book? Could you now answer what the plot was? Can you get closer to what may have happened on or near the theoretical page 63.

            Now, you see, plot doesn’t drive characters—characters drive the plot. They are the only difference to a plot and so they are the integral part to the story. But, how do you write them effectively?

            Well, the key is in how well you as the author know them. Now, you may or may not have been told about the iceberg theory (if you have, I’m sorry, as you’re going to have to sit through it again). The iceberg theory includes a drawing of an iceberg—the tip is showing above the sea (we’ll say 15 to 20 percent) and then there is a giant bulbous piece of iceberg underneath the water (the rest of the percentage, of course). Now a ship coming towards this iceberg will only be able to see the tip, a primitive mind may think that’s all there is, but a good navigator—a proper seaman or woman, will know that there’s plenty more that they can’t see. It’s a feeling, a suggestion that the tip gives.

            To explain the metaphoric rambling: the tip is the amount of information you share about your character in the story, it’s the amount that the reader (or ship) will receive and that you have to steer them towards. The bottom of the iceberg is the large quantity you as the author should know about each one of your characters. The proper seaman/woman, the readers of your work, they need to feel the rest without you blatantly showing it. You do this by using your tip to hint at more—give your character a complexity, a hypocritic quality, a fault, a background that affects everything that they do.

            Don’t sit there and make a list of all their attributes. Okay, okay, let me give you an example:

            ‘Annie was brave, yet gentle and calming. She had long pink and brown hair and her smile was very white. She often went to get them whitened at a local dentist called Hollingbrook’s. She was always willing to go on an adventure and was the complete opposite of Anne in her favourite book ‘The Famous Five’. She liked this book because…’

            You see how this information deluge is bad? How is knowing this adding anything to what Annie is doing? In fact, it will, it all will, but it’s not important enough to spill in your work. You should know it, but the reader should only get the suggestion that they exist. And then one day, when Annie is seen reading a Famous Five book or going to the dentist to her weekly teeth-whitening appointment it will make complete sense because you have built that up in the tip.

            ‘Annie smiled at the man sat across from her, her dazzling white, almost plastic teeth, blinding him as she bent over the map of the island. Her little scarred finger leant on the drawing of the compass at the top and her pink-streaked brown hair laid playfully, sprawled across the coffee table. She reached out a bold, determined hand and rubbed the sweat from his cheeks. ‘It’ll be okay,’ she told him.’

The Iceberg Theory in Doodle Form!

            Now, I’m not going to say it’s a perfect example, as I don’t know this Annie that well yet but it is getting closer to the correct way to write. You see how the things mentioned at the top are almost inferred here? She has shown herself to be kind as she comforts him, brave as she looks at the map, her teeth are even brought into the action and develops their relationship. I’ve even added an extra detail, a flaw of a scarred finger, which suggests something else that’s happened in her past. This excites your reader’s imagination, helps them form their own interpretation of Annie, and isn’t that what makes reading lovely? Even though it’s written by one person and given to many, the many can make their own story as they read it. It’s truly amazing, and the main difference between the written word and visual interpretations of words (films, televisions etc.).

            What else is important for a character? As I’ve shown, flaws often help to make them more well-rounded. Even the Ancient Greeks, some of our earliest known writers, knew this—making their Gods flawed and interesting. Zeus a womaniser, Hera’s jealousy, Aphrodite’s cheating ways and narcissism, Athena’s blunt manner. Even Kronos, a Titan, is afraid of his children and of them copying what he did to his own Father. Give your character a flaw and they become realistic—they become something your readers can understand. It doesn’t even have to be anything big to be a good choice. And again, don’t blatantly say what the fault is, but show it to your readers at the opportune moment.

            To finish, as this is getting a bit lengthy, here’s a few bullet-points which should help you get an idea of how complex this area of writing actually is:

  • Remember that flaws are important.
  • Build a backstory. Spend time with your characters (if you love them it’s easier to connect).
  • Act like they’re your imaginary friends.
  • Characters are what fuel a story. There are only so many plots but there are millions of characters.
  • Remember that real people tend to be hypocritical. There is no such thing as entirely bad or good. People are confusing.
  • Think about social pressures. People change their character in real life depending on the situation and where they are.
  • If doing it from first person or from close-up third person, remember that people often think one thing/one way and act completely different. A timid person is often confident in their head because they’re used to speaking there. An open extrovert may be more likely to speak whatever they’re thinking before they even get a chance to think it.
  • Iceberg theory—show 20% but know 100%. I cannot reiterate enough times how important this theory is.
  • Write some practice short stories with those characters to figure them out. Put them in different situations.
  • And remember, a name will be the first guide to their personality (more on this in another blog post).
  • A narrator is always a character, including an omniscient, which moves us onto next week’s post—‘The Importance of an Omniscient’.

Thank you for reading and…

A Bientot, les ecrivians.