A worm rustles through dry leaves as a man contemplates the end of his world; a scientist discovers a way to turn back the apocalypse; cousins play a game of Memory where the cards turn out to be more than twin suns and puppy dogs; the city of London is consumed by madness; and a woman wakes to find her living room destroyed and her boyfriend gone, with no memory of how it happened.
I’m delighted to be one of just five writers featured in the excited Geek Force Five anthology. Edited by E Christopher Clark, this anthology features five stories: “Beneath It All” by Holly Day, “Memento” by Maria Herring, “The Game of Memory” by Thomas Kearnes, “Blackfriars” by Naomi Elster, and “Carbon” by Jef Cozza. The editor has kindly allowed me to publish an extract from my story here. The anthology can be purchased here in ePub, PDF or Kindle format for US$4.
It came for the soldiers next. In the gloom of a winter dusk, the night guards spotted a stooped figure, hooded and robed in black like a friar slip into the men’s sleeping quarters at Kensington Barracks. They gave chase, but no intruder was found. All seemed normal, apart from the unnatural cold. Then a man cried out in his sleep. The man next to him tossed, and like wildfire, the signs of troubled sleep spread throughout the dorm. Anguished bodies convulsed against hard beds, men shouted and screamed in fear until the whole room shook from the effects of their terror. “Wake them, man, wake them!” shouted one of the guards as he reached to shake the sleeping soldier that was closest to him, but nothing could rouse the men from the hell in which they slept. Before long, all of the men were having nightmares so powerful they feared to sleep, but days hard labour and nights hard drinking made sleep inescapable. They were being destroyed from the inside out by their own memories. The only ones to see the Black Friars but not succumb to terror in their wake were the youngest drummer boys, the ones who hadn’t been blooded in battle yet and had no memories terrible enough to torment them.
It took just three nights before the entire Kensington barracks was utterly consumed by madness. The drummer boys slept on peacefully while the men rose from their beds, dressed and formed ranks. They marched through the city down to the river, chanting as one “Death. The wages of sin is death.” In all my long years I have never seen nor heard a thing more dreadful, nor felt such sorrow and pity as the men, so neat and ordered, marched to one of the new bridges and halted. Together, the front line stepped up onto the balustrade and, in perfect formation, jumped off. “The wages of sin is death, the wages of sin is death” the chant went on and on as the next row stepped up and stepped off, and the next, and the next, until the Thames was piled up with the bodies of dead, despairing soldiers. Here and there hooded shadows moved on the bridge, black ghosts driving the dreadful chant “The wages of sin is death.” It came to be known as Blackfriars Bridge, and none of us who saw what happened that night will ever lose our fear of that dread place.