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 The Street Crawlers

The Street Crawlers: The Children of Hell

Sammy whistled cheerfully as she walked around her room, grabbing a mug from her bedside table and dancing around her bed to the drawers on the other side. She pulled out her phone and smiled at her reflection, moving her lips this way and that and looking at her teeth closely. She groaned and rubbed her middle finger over the top row, rubbing away the piece of toothpaste stuck to it. She blew a kiss to herself and slipped her phone into her pocket.

            A slow knock came on her bedroom door. She danced over to it and pulled it open. Her friends, Daisy and Ant, waved to her and she waved back, coming out into their shared living room as she did. They both joined in the whistle and all three of them danced into the kitchen where Sammy put her mug into the sink. Ant came from behind and slipped her coat onto her shoulders. She pulled her arms into the sleeves.

            Daisy was doing a foxtrot around the kitchen table and grinning to herself like a Cheshire cat. Sammy laughed and joined her. Ant danced over to the front door of the flat and tugged on the handle, smiling and tilting his head to the left. The girls followed him out of the door, still dancing.

            A large bustle was happening outside. People were running to-and-fro, shouting loudly into walkie-talkies and screaming at anyone they passed, ‘emergency, emergency’. Sammy looked around and frowned. She’d stopped whistling.

            “Emergency, emergency,” she said as she ran down the corridor in front of her. Ant and Daisy had run off down separate corridors. She headed down the metallic stairwell in front of her and down to the main control room. The closer she got to the hub of the station the more people she saw flying around in a wild panic. They didn’t know what to do. They didn’t know what to do.

            Sammy pushed herself through the crowd and headed to a large raised area in the middle. A balding, middle-aged man stood on top barking orders at the frantic hordes around him.

            “Move them to Sector A,” he yelled. “Get them out of Sector GI now! That’s an order, get them out now! We can’t afford to lose any more people.”

            “How’s it looking, Dad?” she asked. Her father turned around and saw her. He was red in the face and sweat was dripping down his cheeks.

            “Ah, good, you’re okay,” he said, giving her a hug. “I thought you’d gone to the dogs or something.”

            “I’m fine.” She looked up at the large computer screens hanging on the walls. “What’s happened?” There was live film footage showing the hubbub she’d just seen in the corridors. She could see Daisy who’d now joined up with her co-workers in the Artillery division.

            “An escapee,” her father said. “From Sector 6F. They’re causing all kinds of trouble for our systems, turning off lights, computers and cameras everywhere.”  

            She nodded. More and more screens and cameras were going dead by the second.

            “Is there anything I can do?” she asked whilst her father barked out more orders to the men below.

            “If you really want to help you’ll go to your sector,” he told her.

She frowned and tugged on his jacket sleeve. “Can’t I help you with something? Surely you need someone to check on things down in 6F?”

            “No! Nobody’s to go in there, let alone my girl.” He looked down at her stubborn little face. She reminded him of his little sister, her Aunt, when she was in a mood. “Just go to your sector, Sammy.”

            She grumbled and watched as he walked away from her and down to the floor below. He hardly ever trusted her to do anything. Her brother Danny ran up the stairs to the podium and took her by the arm.

            “Come on, let’s go,” he said, pulling her along with him. They ran down the corridor and pushed through the swarms of workers buzzing through the halls. They ran and ran and ran. Amber lights flashed, sirens sounded, red lights flashed, the sirens were switched off. It was all just one big game of Operation.

            They came to a large metal door and Danny pressed on a panel by the side.

Sammy looked around, confused. “Wait, where are we?”

Danny didn’t say anything.

She tugged on his sleeve. “Danny, this isn’t my sector,” she said, worriedly. The door slid open. She’d never heard a door open so quietly before.

            She looked inside and saw an empty space with a bed and a few tins of food laid next to a bucket. 

            “Danny, this isn’t my sector.” She was getting annoyed by his silence.  He wouldn’t even look at her. “Danny, this is ridiculous. We don’t have time.” She turned to leave and Danny grabbed her wrist. She wiggled, trying to get out of his grip. Her brother wasn’t usually so fierce, she couldn’t understand it. With one quick move he flung her inside. She toppled backwards and fell onto the floor.

            “Da…” she said, in surprise but she didn’t get enough time to finish. He shut the door on her, turning the locks and shutting her inside. Sammy began to panic and ran forward, slamming her full weight against the door. It wouldn’t budge. She yelled out but nobody could hear her. Danny had run off down the corridor, giving the express command not to go anywhere near where he’d put his sister to anyone he passed. They all obediently followed his orders.

            The alarms were still going but Sammy couldn’t hear them anymore. Just as nobody outside could hear her from inside the room, she couldn’t hear anything from the outside either. She was all alone. She was all alone and she was annoyed. Her father had done this to her. Her father had locked her up like she was a child that needed to be protected. But she wasn’t a child anymore. She could look after herself.

            “I have to get to my sector,” she screamed. “I need to get to my sector. Danny, let me out!” When nobody came after fifteen minutes of screaming, and her voice hoarse, she gave up. She groaned and slid onto the ground. It wasn’t like she couldn’t have helped. She’d practically been raised on the company’s rules and procedures. When other children had been learning how to walk she’d been running drills in the gym. By the age of six she was better with a weapon than most experienced soldiers. It was stupid that she should be locked up.

            She looked over at the tins of food. There was barely enough to suit Ant’s appetite, let alone Sammy’s. She figured, by her trained reasoning, that it would last perhaps two days, three at most. And if they did expect her to stay any longer then they could rethink their plans. There was no way she was staying in here, starving herself to death.

            “This is ridiculous,” she croaked, her throat still sore from her yelling. She stretched and rolled into a ball, stuffing herself in a corner and burying her face in her legs. “I should be out there, not in here.”

            “You and me both,” said a voice not far off.

Sammy sat up straight, startled. She put her hands down on the floor to hold herself steady. “Who said that?” she asked, looking around the room. No, it was definitely empty.

            “Oh, sorry,” the voice said. “I forgot about this thing.” A light was switched on and the far wall suddenly showed another room just like hers. There was a young boy stood inside and he waved at her cheerfully.

            “Hi,” he said. “I’m Graham.”

            Sammy stood up and brushed the wrinkles off her trousers. She touched the wall Graham was looking through and swept her hands across the glass. The strange thing was—it didn’t feel like glass.

            “It’s a new material,” Graham said, smiling at her. He had glasses perched on the end of his nose. He pushed them up to sit on the bridge, near his amber eyes. “They’ve been working on it in the labs for a while now. It’s a good thing they finished it, isn’t it? Otherwise we wouldn’t be here.”

            “Good for you, maybe. I should be out there,” she grumbled, still wiping her hand over the mysterious material.

            “So should I,” Graham admitted. “I’m supposed to be working on a new software with my friends, but here I am.” He shrugged and pulled a face. “Sometimes things happen.”

            “Yes, well, they shouldn’t.” Sammy hadn’t liked the face he’d pulled. She didn’t know whether she liked this boy or not. “At least they shouldn’t for people my age. I’m old enough to be looking after myself.”

            “Apparently not, otherwise you wouldn’t feel so bad about having to take care of yourself in here.”

She glared at the younger boy but he didn’t mind. His smile stayed on his face, looking like it couldn’t be removed no matter what anyone did. “You could consider this an opportunity to prove yourself right. Prove you can look after yourself then next time they might believe you.”

            “And why should I listen to a little boy?” she asked.

            “I’m not a little boy,” he said, indignantly. “I’m already into my teens, same as you. I’m just short for my age, that’s all.” He seemed embarrassed by his height and tugged on his shirt, trying to pull it lower.

            “Incredibly short,” she said, but she stopped herself before she said any of the crueller thoughts she was having. “Anyway, how’d you know I was a teenager?”

            Graham grinned and pushed his glasses back up. They’d fallen down again. “My mum’s in charge of the computer labs, with all the records and data stored on them.” He paused and looked her up and down. “You look a bit different from your I.D. Photo. I thought you were taller.”

            “Hey,” she said, “I’m plenty tall, believe you and me, shortie.” She laughed and he joined in with her.

            “I’m sorry,” he said. “I just don’t know much about anybody off the computer. Other than my friends I barely see anyone.”

            Sammy looked into his sad eyes and pitied him. She knew how it felt to live like that. Even when she’d been training as a child the gym had always been empty. “You have friends then?” she asked.

Graham nodded. “Bobby and Gwen, yes. They’re parents work here too.” He took a crumpled photo from his pocket and pushed it against the see-through wall. A cheeky brown-haired boy and blonde-Barbie girl stared back at her. 

            “They look nice,” she said.

            “They are.” He tucked the photo back into his pocket again. “I suppose they’ll be locked up in one of the other safe-rooms right now. They’re probably playing all sorts of games.” He sighed and blushed when he saw Sammy staring. “I don’t have a very big imagination,” he said, and he pushed his glasses again. They hadn’t fallen down but he sometimes did this when he felt embarrassed.

            “Well, you’re lucky, at least,” Sammy said. She moved over to the bed and sat down. “I didn’t have friends when I was your age—and I didn’t have an imagination either.”

            “Really?” Graham had sat down on his bed too. They couldn’t see each other anymore but they could still hear each other.

            “Yeah,” Sammy said. Graham could hear the sadness in her voice as it shook. She zoned off for a few seconds, thinking back to her childhood. “I suppose that’s why I’m so happy when I’m around Ant and Daisy. They keep me interested. I never was when I was a kid.”

            “I’d be the same,” Graham said. Silence fell for a few minutes. Neither knew what to say to each other and both had disappeared into their minds to consider their pairs of friends.

            “I’m sorry for not speaking, by the way,” Graham said through the silence. “I didn’t know what to say.”

            “It’s okay,” Sammy said, with a yawn. “I needed time to rant to myself anyway. I’m just sorry you had to listen to it.” She looked at the ceiling with a puzzled expression. “Hey,” she said, attracting Graham’s attention, “what do you think’s happening out there right now?”

            “I don’t know,” he said. “Something exciting.”

            “Yes.” She turned over and rested her head on her hands. “Something exciting.”

A Short Song About The Children

If the children succeed us

Why can’t we let them succeed?

And if the children need us

Why don’t we just let them need?

And when the time comes

When they need us no more

Why don’t we let them succeed us

Whether they’re rich or they’re poor?

Posted in The Street Crawlers

The Street Crawlers 1: The Street Crawlers

Street Crawlers are a rare breed. These people who trawl the streets looking for any form of shelter have their numbers of the breed declining, and yet still they are a worry for the over-growing population.  Then how can it be that even now, with such low numbers, their kind continues to be broken up into many different categories with many different populations (a sub-species of crawler for the people who are considered by the rubenesque to be a sub-species of person)?

Eighty percent of these sub-humans are named ‘the lost’: the people who have originally had the gross luxuries of an average person but have lost it all through pains such as depression, job-loss, and the occasional political activist who the ‘soldiers of the superiors’ have considered to have an unnecessary lifestyle. Of this eighty percent, twenty-five percent would be children who still had the attachments they had formed in early life. These children would find it noticeably harder to reintegrate into normal civilisation and would struggle with what they should do after their fleeting childhood had ended.                                                                                           

Another group, eighteen-point-five percent of the breed, is filled with ‘Street Survivors’, a group predominantly filled with children raised on the street by another of the survivor field. Half of these would go out into the world and get a low-paid job, whilst the other half flooded rehabilitation centres and mental clinics everywhere: the sufferers of ‘Street Syndrome’.

The last one-point-five percent is extremely rare. These are the ‘Copper Foxes’. They are heartless, thoughtless and emotionally stunted. They struggle to trust and struggle to understand what people think of them, because of a lack of emotion shown to them in early life. A Copper Fox is not something that any crawler would like to interact with, or even think of; though all of them know the tale of the famous one of its kind.

  The namesake of this group was a small child; innocent on the outside, but inside a burning incense of dark hunger loomed in their heart. The Copper Fox, known henceforth in this tale as Plain Jane, was by far the hungriest of the kind. At only seven years old she was seen doing everything and anything she could to destroy other people’s lives. Not even the feeling of jealousy penetrated her mind. The loss of her street crawler family remained her last source of emotion. Nothing more and nothing less than that suffering she had had at that time.

Jane could never be a normal child and would never allow herself to be considered abnormal by those who slept in her own alleyways. The street crawlers around her knew that she was never going to be one of them. But she was a street crawler while she walked across the un-solid ground of her successors. None of the crawlers had the empathetic knowledge to understand her vermin-like nature, as she tore through the limbs of the alley walls seeking for her human prey on whose lives she fed. Keeping her strength she stayed vigilant against any ‘soldiers of hell’ that had accidentally stepped onto her land.

She was neither sympathetic nor caring towards the rest of her street kind and so she didn’t expect the same in return. The only expectation she had of those she considered her tenants, is that they paid her for the right to live in her alleys and always paid her on time no matter what had happened. If they went back on their word she would leave them outside, unprotected, for the soldiers to find and destroy.

She would watch as the camouflaged combatants came in their armoured beast, shot electricity out of the rods in their clawing hands and dragged away the partially awake body to be eaten up by the gnashing teeth of their roaring monster.

The soldiers of hell were about the only people that Jane ever felt afraid of; they, and their beastly contraption that had consumed all of the lives she had come to support. The uniformed soldiers would always feed their beast and never considered anything about where the food was really coming from and what it could be leaving behind; like she had been…

Scrutinised by other street crawlers, she would wander alone, finding new ways for her life to counteract an innocent’s. She was a pure gold mine for the criminal masterminds as, if they asked her to do a job, she would do it without question and without care of the costs of another person.

The lives stacked up like pennies in a jar, each one crashing heavily onto the next and causing another penny to be battered and made blunt, until they were almost non-existent in the crowds. The only luck meeting the Copper Fox came to Jane herself, who grew higher on the hierarchy every time she entered a new street domain. With the footsteps of a mouse, and the roar of a lion, she would shatter the boundaries between good and evil to force in a new kind of creature: herself.

Everybody knew her; everybody feared her; nobody could stop her, and those who dared to try would come to a sudden realisation of what a Copper Fox truly was when their dented and twisted penny dropped onto the others.

The Copper Fox would always win, and only those who worked hard to keep her trust would prevail within the street crawlers’ society. The hierarchy would always be set to her own liking. The pounds would be swallowed from one street crawler’s pocket and into another’s. It was all up to who Jane decided had deserved the money that week.

Starving children were often given bountiful amounts of this treasured cash in order for them to survive, because the more surviving children there were, the more money they would have to pay back in the future to the Copper Fox. Her business was run intelligently, but ruthlessly.

Everyone quickly discovered the power of a street crawler. It was a power that belonged to her and her alone. Street crawlers laid in terror, listening to the song of the fearful fox: a warbling noise only befitting that of a demon or cackling witch. It sent shivers up the spine of even the oldest residents of the streets.

Yet Jane never saw it this way. Her song was the only freedom she could find from her lack of sanity. Her song was the only way she could attempt any kind of relief from who she was, or indeed who she used to be. Through her song she could search for those that she’d lost; those very same people who could never be replaced in her eyes.

She expected no sympathy from anyone, and so never admitted to the pain she felt inside. In her mind nobody could ever give her the kind of love she’d lost so long ago, and there was no point in trying to regain any kind of love again. She wanted it to be exactly the way it used to be, back when her pack was filled with numerous others; back when her family lived with her and everything felt so much better.

She prowled around the streets, her eyes scanning the ground for any sign of the soldiers and their horrible beast, in the hope that one day she’d find them again. Her pack had meant so much to her. The images from her fourth birthday loomed in her mind through day and through night.

There she was, a smile washed over her face as her family went about their usual, oddly-cheerful routine. They were perfectly happy to be celebrating her birth. They were overjoyed she had been born so she could be a part of their group, and she felt the same about them. She couldn’t imagine life without them by her side.

Sylvester sat in the corner, rattling through a rubbish bin to find the best scraps he could for the party. A dirty shoe was flung out, followed by a broken wheel, but no food. His coal black hair stuck to his greasy face and sooty cheeks. His efforts only made him more unclean than ever. Jane didn’t mind. She couldn’t imagine him being clean; it just wouldn’t be like Sly to go near soap and water. His eyes would always sparkle no matter what dirt and debris attached itself to his body.

Slow footsteps walked up behind her and she felt a tender pat on her back. She looked up to see the grinning face of her foster father. He kissed her tenderly on the cheeks, wishing her a happy birthday, before beckoning for the others to follow him.

He had a job for them; a job that could mean more food for them in the short term. Jane had wanted to join in, she remembered, but her father wouldn’t let her. He told her she was far too young to help. She still had a year or so of innocence before having to join the rough side of their society.

Jane had never been a very good listener. She had followed them as they left, right up to the doorstep of the posh house just outside of their territory. A loud crash came from inside the building; an alarm rang inside the doors. Where were her family? She couldn’t see them. She smiled as she caught a glimpse of Savannah and Adonis climbing out of the window above. Their faces were distorted in fear as they tried to push passed one another to escape. Sirens, louder than anything Jane had ever heard, rang out from down the street. Savannah and Adonis pushed each other harder.  

Jane’s eyes had followed them down to the ground where they had met up with her father, Sly and the others. She ran up to them, a large grin on her face, and wrapped her arms around her father’s chest. His mind seemed to wander, barely taking in her appearance. It was as if she had been a ghost and he had been a sceptic. He flinched as the feedback from a microphone came to the ears of the panicking children.

Jane hadn’t understood many of the words he’d muttered, back then. She understood them now. Now, she had heard them used time and time again by those being chased, and those doing the chasing. She had never used them herself though; it was beneath her.

It was beneath him too. In a wild panic he had yelled to the children, begging them to run as fast as possible. ‘Don’t look back,’ he begged. ‘Don’t come looking. Be safe. Be safe’.

They had obeyed, their feet pattering further and further away from Jane’s confused grasp. Her father had picked her up in his trembling arms and charged in the opposite direction. Quickly darting back into the safety of the dark alleys, and hearing the voices behind, he threw the young girl behind a stack of cardboard boxes and covered her with as much as he could find. His only thought was protecting her. Jane knew how hard he’d fought for her to be safe.

The next few seconds contained the images she always wanted to forget. It was this moment that had changed her opinion on everything to do with what she had once thought of as being a peaceful existence.

She no longer expected pity. She no longer expected happiness. Those expectations had disappeared along with everyone she’d known. A Copper Fox, she thought, was better alone. Other people merely got in the way of her plans.

Yet still, Jane waited for them. Waiting until a miracle could happen, and she could feel the tenderness of their love again. She never would.

Entry is an Open Door

Without even meaning or reasoning

You enter our world.

It’s dark and it’s dangerous.

It’s bitten and gnarled.

It closes around you,

The smell and the stink,

But you don’t have the luxury

To stop and to think.

This world isn’t like your old one.

There is no mistrust.

You must depend on others

Or you’ll turn into dust.

You’ll become what we don’t speak of,

The lost ones we leave,

And you’ll lose your way and your head

if you don’t behave.

You’ll see monsters like no others

Lurking in the shadows

But you’ll find friendship in the dark

And family in the alleys.

You’ll step into the heaven

That is the Crawlers’ haven

And you’ll learn to love it every day

Because there is no chance of saving.

You’ll lose friends hour by hour

And gain more just as quickly.

You’ll have days were you can take no more

And days that make you sickly.

You’ll survive on scraps and water

But only if you hunt it.

You’ll search for freedom when you can

But you will never get it.

You’ll learn to fear the Fox at night

And cower when it barks.

You’ll learn the Eagle’s starry stare

And learn the Eagle’s mark.

You’ll come to know the different types,

The Crawlers on their streets.

You’ll learn to be wary and watchful

Of the Street Syndrome disease.

And if you see a hunter or soldier

You must run and run and run.

Most of the Street Crawler’s lost

Have been claimed by beast or gun.

You will love it as you hate it,

Here in our growing kingdom.

But, I can promise you, here and now

That you will never gain your freedom.