SciFi By The Sea 2016 – Scarborough SciFi Festival

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SciFi Scarbs for the win!

Another great event! This was Scarborough SciFi Festival’s third year and my second visit and I can say hands-down it is my favourite con. It’s a two-day event, which is great value for both traders, artists and attendees, with a fabulous atmosphere and great organisation in a wonderful location. But as well as all that, what really stands out about this con, is that the organisers work exceptionally hard not only to make it fun and packed with content and activities for everyone, but also go out of their way to make sure everyone is happy, have what they need and know where everything is, traders, guests and attendees alike.

Having been to some cons where you do just get lost in the crowd, can’t find your table, can’t find the toilet or even the way in, this is an absolute breath of fresh air. It feels more like a holiday than a day working a stall.

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Oh I do like to be beside the seaside! I can definitely think of worse locations for a convention

There were some great guests including Star Trek Voyager’s Garrett Wang (who was an absolute scream), Norman Lovett of Red Dwarf fame and the always lovely Jon Campling form Harry Potter, who challenged everyone to retweet the details of his charity in exchange for a ‘Death Eater on a Unicycle’ stunt. Which he performed on day 2 with aplomb.

There was also ACTUAL stuff from the ACTUAL Dredd movie which had me exploding all over the Ocean Room with excitment. I GOT TO TOUCH DREDD’S BIKE! By all accounts it goes, too. They had to hold me back from riding off across the stage on it.

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My stall before I sold out

And, as well as all this, my Orbit Series books 1 & 2 went down a storm. I expected to have a few people dropping by for book 2, Haven, after having picked up book 1, Zero, last year, but the flush of new, keen faces (who also happened to be SciFi fans, naturally) cleared me out of Zero within a few hours of the first day!

All I can say is bring on Scarborough SciFi Festival 2017!

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DREDD’S BIKE! DREDD’S *ACTUAL* BIKE!!!

My next events this year are Edge-Lit, Derby and CoxCon, Telford, both in July. Book 3, Silence, is also set for launch at CoxCon so that’s doubly exciting!

More detailed posts about Silence, third and final book in the Orbit Series, to come.

 

 

 

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Silence, Book 3 in the Orbit Series, will be launched at CoxCon July 2016

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‘Silence’ – Book 3 in the Orbit Series Cover Reveal

Well, how’s this for a pretty thing?

More detailed post to come, but I couldn’t not-share this. Silence will be the 3rd and final book in my Science Fiction Orbit Series.

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This wonderful cover design was made by the amazingly talented Matt Davis of Rock and Hill Design Studio.

Books 1 & 2 of this series, Zero & Haven have been enjoyed by fans of SciFi and general fiction alike since Zero hit the shelves in 2014 and have been described as ‘James Bond meets Firefly’. They are both available on Amazon as ebook or paperback, or you can contact me direct on Facebook or Twitter for a signed copy (UK only, small postage charge applies).

CLICK HERE FOR AMAZON

CLICK HERE FOR GOODREADS

After the truly humbling success of books 1 & 2, it makes me so happy to bring you Silence, the final chapter of my journey with these characters. And, just to warn you, it turns the dial up to 11 story-wise. I have ensured that it is packed with the intrigue, drama and action that everyone has said they’ve enjoyed about the first two, and more.

It is scheduled for release at CoxCon 2016, Telford, UK on July 30th 2016. Amazon release same day.

Mark it in your calendars, fellow space adventurers!

 

 

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Event Announcement – Lancaster LitFest Fri 18th Mar 2016

Greetings all!

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Lancaster LitFest this year runs 17th – 20th Mar 2016

Very excited to announce that I’ve been invited to take part in this year’s Lancaster Litfest. LitFest has been going for many years, and is widely recognised as a highly-acclaimed festival that attracts great writing names as well as fiction fans of all kinds.

Litfest develops writers, engages readers and audiences, and celebrates literary excellence. The annual festival has been staged since 1978 and they alos have a range of other publishing, development and participatory projects that have positioned the organisation at the heart of Lancashire’s cultural and creative activity.

2016 will be the first year they do a night dedicated to SciFi/Fantasy and other none-literary, ‘alternative reality’ fiction. And they’ve asked me to be involved!

I’m extremely excited. I will be on a panel alongside Eddie Robson, SciFi novelist who also has written Dr Who episodes as well as other writing for TV and radio. We will be doing readings and answernig questions.

There are more details on the website and Facebook event.

I am very much looking forward to attending this festival and meeting other local fiction fans and writers. Hope to see some of you there!

For a full list of all my events & appearences (at which you can purchase signed copies of my Orbit Series novels) see my events page

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Event Announcement: Edge Lit, Derby, Sat 16th July 2016

Greetings everyone! I hope everyone had a suitably wonderful festive season & New Year. Seeing Star Wars The Force Awakens on release day certainly set it off at a bang for me, along with receiving my very own baby BB-8 for Christmas!

Here he is at Christmas, wanting to help Mum with the cooking: https://www.facebook.com/jscollyer/videos/1666835270238702/

Ok, so I need a bit of practice! But he’s a wonderful addition to the household!

But I digress. I am posting today to announce that I will be attending Edge-Lit in Derby on Sat 16th July!

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This event is for fans of horror, fantasy and SciFi fiction. It’s a bit different to other cons I’ve attended because it is solely about books: an event for authors and readers alike. As I am both these things, I am particularly excited about attending with both books 1 & 2 of my Orbit Series.

Book 1, Zero, was release Aug 2014 and has been described as ‘James Bond meets Firefly’ and has done exceedingly well at past conventions and events I’ve attended amongst fans of SciFi and Adventure/General Fiction alike. The sequel, Haven, was released Oct 2015 and so far feedback has been wonderful. A lot of people have said the story steps up a notch from the first which pleases me immensely.

I’m currently working on a draft of number 3 in the series, but this is still very hush-hush at this time. Shhhhhhhhh.

You can grab Zero and/or Haven from me at Edge Lit, Scarborough SciFi Festival or any of my upcoming events. They are also available from Amazon as ebooks or paperbacks:

Read reviews/grab Zero from Amazon here

Read reviews/grab Haven from Amazon here

Stay tuned for more news and hopefully more events for 2016.

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Orbit Series Character Designs

Greetings everyone. Something fun for Friday!

I originally commissioned some character designs from designer Jo Thompson with a view to getting some postcards printed for a crowdfunding campaign. The crowdfunding hasn’t yet come about, but I didn’t want to sit on there any longer without sharing.

Something will be done with them in the future – prints possibly for sale on my stall at my events – and there are more where these come from. But for now, here are my favourites!

It was really fun seeing someone else’s visualisations of my characters come together.

(For those of you who don’t know, these are characters from my first two books, Zero & Haven, books 1 & 2 in the Orbit Series. Details about this character-driven, space-pirate-filled romp on my Orbit Series page as well as links to Amazon)

Hugo

Harvey

Webb

 

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Christmas Has Come Early! FREE advance copies of new Spec Fic Anthology Crime & Punishment up for grabs!

Jingle Bells, Batman Smells etc!

Greetings all! It’s come up really quickly but here it is! From the team that brought you No Way Home, a speculative fiction anthology released earlier in the year that got into the TOP TEN kindle downloads for SciFi Short Fiction, have come together again for a new collection! Crime and Punishment features many of the same writers as No Way Home including myself and award winning writers Lucas Bale and Michael Hicks, with a few new voices mixed in for spice! It explores the themes of, you guessed it, crime and punishment in other, speculative and/or futuristic worlds.

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Crime and Punishment Spec Fic anthology is out Mon 7th Dec as ebook and paperback, but free ARC Ebook copies are available from me!

My own contribution, a fair whopper of a short story, is called ‘New Tricks’ which is a bit Blade Runner meets The Mentalist. Here, have a synopsis!

New Tricks

Felix Dalton had thought his military service was over. He’d seen and done terrible things and counselled those that had done worse into confessing. He’d had his fill of blood and anguish and looked forward to retirement with his new wife.

But there is always one more job.

Something new has risen to threaten the unstable peace the Western Nations have bled furiously to bring about. An aristocrat’s stepson claiming to have supernatural powers and hell-bent on tipping humanity into another cycle of destruction has arranged the slaughter of seventeen high-profile peace conference delegates. Felix must convince the boy to explain how he pulled off the mysterious murders so the establishment can imprison him on the secure moon-based labour camp Lunar Alpha for the rest of his life and ensure his work cannot be carried on by anyone else.

But there’s a problem. Young Arcadius Cole believes in his own power. He wants war, possesses a mysterious means of killing and nothing to lose.

This collection goes on sale NEXT WEEK, Mon 7th of Dec and will be available as ebook or as paperback.

HOWEVER, as it’s the season and all, we are giving you the opportunity to get your hands on a FREE advance electronic copy of the book. I have both mobi or epub files in my little Father Christmas sack! To get yours, just comment on here or Contact Me through social media😀

Very excited to be reunited with this team of considerably talented writers again. The last anthology was a great success and it’s wonderful to be included once more with a chance to try something different! Everyone’s stretched their creative muscles with this and really got their teeth into it.

The only thing more enjoyable is sharing the work with all of you, so do hit me up for your free copy whilst you can!

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Black Friday Sale: Get CONVERGENCE For FREE

FREE SCIFI FOR BLACK FRIDAY

Michael Patrick Hicks

Featured Image -- 3583Today’s the day – head over to Amazon get my debut sci-fi thriller ebook, Convergence, for the low, low price of totally free!

This offer is good for today only, so act fast!

If you prefer the physical format, you can buy the Convergence paperback and save 30% by using the code HOLIDAY30 at checkout (terms & conditions here; offer good until Nov. 30).

If you’ve already read Convergence, please take a moment to leave a review and let other readers know your thoughts. It doesn’t have to be long at all, and I’ve seen reviews as short as “It’s great!” on other book pages. It will only take you a moment, but it can have a tremendous influence on other readers out there.

Here’s the synopsis:


Jonah Everitt is a killer, an addict, and a memory thief.

After being hired to kill a ranking officer of…

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HAVEN BOOK 2 ORBIT SERIES OUT NOW

Did I mention my second novel, Haven, is OUT NOW?!?!

WHEEEE!

Haven, sequel to Zero, is OUT NOW ON AMAZON

Haven, sequel to Zero, is OUT NOW ON AMAZON

Get Haven on Amazon here

Zero, book 1 in my Orbit Series is OUT NOW

Zero, book 1 in my Orbit Series is OUT NOW

Get Zero, book 1, on Amazon here

Character-driven Scifi packed to the rafters with space pirates, intrigue, explosions, motorbike chases and more!

Think James Bond meets Firefly.

Find out more about the Orbit Series on my Orbit Series page

Had an amazing launch party here in Lancaster at Out Of This World Fiction Fest, nearly selling out of stock entirely. So pleased my stories are getting out there.

A more in-depth post, and re-write of my Halloween short story Baba Yaga to come real soon folks!

Have a great week

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Happily Ever After…? (Plus a new #FlashForFriday)

For Throwback Thursday and to mark the day, here’s a Bonfire Night short from last year about what’s important to remember and what’s not:)

J. S. Collyer Science Fiction Writer

The concept of ‘The Ending’ is something that is kind of a big deal for a lot of fiction writers, I imagine. Poets too, most probably. Script writers as well. Heck, it’s probably something that no writer approaches lightly.

It’s the conclusion. The statement. The end. It’s that taste left in the mouth of the reader, the thought they’re left with, the place you’ve taken them too and then left them. It has a massive impact on their final conclusions about the story. So, yeah…a big deal.

For me, when ending a piece of fiction, whether writing or reading, I like closure. It doesn’t need to be all tied up tight and neat. It doesn’t even need to have answered all the questions. But it does need to have some sort of conclusion. There has to be a reason for the story to have ended at that point.

So that’s…

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Halloween Short Story: ‘Baba Yaga’ Part 1

Happy All Hallows, my friends!

Last week a launched a poll for the subject matter of a Halloween short story. The choices were: a haunted space ship, a cursed lunchbox or a stranger at the party.

Of course, everyone chose the lunchbox.

Unfortunately, the tale got a little out of hand, is currently over 5000 words and hasn’t concluded yet, so I haven’t been able to get it finished in time for posting today! However, here is the first part for you to enjoy (or not, mwahahaha)

I will post Part 2 as soon as it is written.

So draw the curtains, turn the lights down low and put on some suitably atmospheric music!

And, one last note, I will warn you that I have butchered (pun intended) a Romanian folk tale rather violently during the course of this tale. But if you can’t cannibalise stuff at Halloween, when can you?

Baba Yaga Part 1

baba_yaga_halloween_old_art_orange_tale_hd-wallpaper-1833726“If she hates it that much, Sarah, just get her a new one.”

“Franklin, you’re not listening. It’s not that she doesn’t like it. It’s that she likes it too much.”

Franklin frowned but didn’t look away from the TV. “I thought you just said she won’t eat out of it?”

Sarah sighed, scooped up the remote and turned the football highlights off. “I said,” Sarah said, cutting off her husband’s protests. “She won’t eat anything that’s not served in it.”

“Huh?”

Sarah nodded to the dining room. “She’s in there right now, eating her spaghetti out of it like a bowl.”

“Why?”

Sarah shrugged, her brow creased with concern. “She says it tastes better in the box. But I don’t know, Franklin. It’s metal and old. I’m fine with her taking her wrapped sandwiches to school in it, but her hot dinners? It doesn’t seem healthy. Not to mention it can’t go in the dishwasher…”

“Tell her then,” Franklin said, a little irritated and reaching for the remote. “Tell her she needs to eat like a grown up.”

“I’ve tried,” Sarah said, pulling the remote out of reach. “But she wouldn’t listen. She wouldn’t have eaten anything since the day before yesterday if I hadn’t served it in that box. I thought the novelty would wear off, but it hasn’t.”

“You’re talking about the old metal thing we found in Gran’s back bedroom?”

Sarah nodded. “I thought it was pretty, sort of Victorian with that little witchy character on the front. I sterilised it and everything. She was desperate to take it to school. But now I can’t get it off her.”

“I told you I didn’t want anything of that woman’s in my house,” Franklin muttered as he heaved himself off the couch.

“It was just one little lunchbox, dear.”

“The woman was bad news, Sare,” Franklin muttered, lowering his voice. “Why do you think I had to sort the house? Mum won’t even admit she existed.”

Franklin went to the dining room door and looked over at his daughter. Rhiannon was sat on her booster seat at the end of the dining table, shovelling spaghetti hoops into her mouth, scooping forkfuls out of the metal lunch box, the bowl Sarah had served them in empty at her elbow. His daughter’s eyes were fixed on her food and she used her hand as well as her fork to push as much food into her mouth as possible.

“Rhiannon, sweetie,” Sarah chided. “Don’t use your hands.”

Rhiannon made an inarticulate noise and swiped the lunchbox out of her mother’s reach as she approached. Sarah gave him a beseeching look.

“Nan,” Franklin said, coming forward, a faint tendril of unease uncurling in his belly at the fierce look on his daughter’s face has she clutched protectively at lunchbox. “Don’t you want to eat of a plate?”

Rhiannon shook her head, eyes wide, mouth bulging with spaghetti hoops and face covered in red tomato sauce.

“You should listen to your mum, you know,” he said, a little firmly. “Lunch boxes are for lunch.”

Rhiannon chewed fiercely then swallowed. “I like it.”

“I know you like it,” Franklin said, reaching out his hand. “But we can’t always do what we like.”

Rhiannon’s face creased and she let out a screech loud enough to make Franklin jump.

“Nan,” he barked. “Don’t be a baby. Give me the lunch box or you won’t even get it for lunch tomorrow.”

“Daddy,” she pleaded voice thickening and eyes filling with tears. “Please, Daddy. It’s meant for food. It all tastes better in it. Please let me keep it.”

He looked to his wife. She was hanging back, lips pursed part in annoyance and part in concern. Then he looked back at his daughter, normally so good, with her blonde hair curling slightly at the temples and her chocolate-coloured eyes huge and wet and silently begging. Her little knuckles were white as she held onto the box with all her might.

He sighed. “Ok, sport,” he said, raising his hand a little as Sarah threw him a look. “You can carry on eating your meals from your lunch box. But it’s too big for the dishwasher so you must promise to clean it after each meal, ok?”

Rhiannon beamed, all tomato sauce and shining eyes and innocence again and went back to scooping hoops up with her fork and pushing them in her mouth, making yummy noises.

“Franklin,” Sarah said once they were back in the living room. “I told you – ”

“Relax,” he said, retrieving the remote control and turning the TV back on. “She’ll soon get bored of having to wash it up herself. It’s just a phase. At least she’s eating.”

Sarah looked back through the doorway as her daughter feverishly scraped the last of the hoops out of the bottom of the lunch box with an intense set to her little face.

“Mummy,” she called when she was done. “I’m still hungry.”

*

“Mummy, can I have some more?”

Sarah cringed. “No, Rhiannon,” she said for what felt the millionth time that week. “You’ve had two portions already. Don’t be greedy.”

“But Mummy,” her daughter’s voice went up the scale with need. “I’m still hungry.”

“You can’t still be hungry,” Sarah said as she started collecting plates. “That was more than enough lasagna for a little girl. Now go and wash that lunchbox please before I take it off you.”

“No,” Rhiannon cried, throwing her arms around the lunchbox. “No, Mummy, please. Daddy said I could keep it.”

“Yes well I’m not too sure Daddy wasn’t just being soft on a fussy young lady,” Sarah said, shooting Franklin a glance.

Franklin just shrugged and helped clear the remaining plates and glasses but shot a sidewise glance at his daughter who was still bent over her lunchbox, clutching it in a death grip.

He paused as he balanced Rhiannon’s beaker on the pile of plates in his hand. Her blonde head was turned away and Sarah was pointedly shoving things into the dishwasher with more noise than was necessary in the kitchen but he still thought he heard something.

“Nan, did you say something?”

Rhiannon’s head shot up, eyes wide as if she hadn’t realised he was there. “No, Dad.”

Franklin narrowed his eyes. “Ok then. Go clean up your box, please.”

“But Daddy,” she whined. “I’m still hungry.”

“I’ve had enough of this,” Sarah said, storming forward and wrenching the lunchbox from her daughter’s grip. Rhiannon cried and reached but Sarah pulled it out of her reach. “No, Rhiannon. Enough is enough. You’re a big girl. You understand you can’t have everything you want and you can’t have thirds on dinner every night. It’s not healthy.”

“Mummy,” Rhiannon cried, climbing down from her seat and reaching for the box.

“No. Franklin, please take this and put it away somewhere. If you’re a good girl you can have your school sandwiches in it tomorrow. But only if you stop this this childish behaviour.”

Rhiannon’s cries faded to whimpers. She twisted red fingers together and her face was blotchy, eyes red with crying. He hurried to the kitchen to rinse it out whilst Sarah ushered their daughter off to an early bed as punishment. The choked and desperate whimpers he heard going up the stairs were worse than any tantrum he’d known his daughter to have.

“I don’t get it,” Sarah said as she poured a glass of wine and stared at the lunchbox on the kitchen side. “It’s not even really that nice looking. Kitsch, maybe, but not something a seven-year-old would go mad over.”

“I don’t think it’s even a lunchbox,” Franklin said, picking it up and looking at it from all sides. It was metal, enameled with a white gloss that had faded to yellow with age. An etching of funny character with long hair and stick arms was printed on the front, wearing a head scarf and riding on what looked a bit like a broom, smiling in a way he didn’t think was cute. It was scratched on the bottom but otherwise the thing was pristine. The catches on the top flipped without the slightest stiffness. “Like I said, Gran was a weird one. She could have picked this thing up anywhere. How do we know what it’s even made of? Maybe we should just chuck it.”

“Sweet God, she’d never forgive us,” Sarah said, giving the box a distrustful look. “No, she won’t learn if we just throw it away and force her to eat of a plate again. She needs to understand it’s the right way, not just because we say so.”

Franklin shook his head and put the box out of reach on top of the cupboard, glad to unhand it as it was unexpectedly chill to the touch. “Fine, she can still have it for her school lunch. But we need to keep an eye on her, Sare. This doesn’t feel right.”

Sarah didn’t answer but just poured them both more wine.

“Are you still ok with me going away tomorrow? I can cancel if you think you need help handling this.”

“Don’t be silly, Franklin,” Sarah said, not looking at him. “Our daughter’s not a monster.”

*

“Calm down, Sare,” Franklin said as his wife’s voice juddered on the end of the line. “I don’t understand what you’re saying.”

“It’s just what it sounds like,” Sarah had audibly taken control of her voice but it still had an edge of fear. “Franklin, she refused to touch her dinner again. This is the third day in a row. I didn’t want to but I’d had enough and I sent her to bed without any. She can’t have every meal out of that damn box, Franklin. She just can’t.”

“So what, exactly, happened then?”

“I left some sandwiches outside her door because I knew she’d be hungry but I fell asleep. But I woke up when I heard her…heard her…” she made a noise somewhere between an expression of impatience and confusion, “She was in the kitchen, Franklin. She’d ignored the sandwiches and gone right to the fridge. She’d almost finished the whole thing by the time I got to her.”

“Finished what?”

A pause. “The chicken I’d bought for dinner tomorrow.”

Franklin swallowed. “Raw?”

Sarah sobbed. “Yes. I took her straight to emergency room. They had to pump her stomach. She’d bitten through the bones and everything.”

Franklin sat heavily on the hotel bed. “I don’t understand.”

“She was eating it out of the lunchbox,” his wife mumbled. “She’s pulled it down off the cupboard and filled it with stuff from the fridge. She’s got through five yogurts and half a tin of beans before she even reached the chicken.”

“Have they kept her in?”

“Yes,” Sarah said, sounding weary. “They’re going to do scans and blood tests, finally, and make sure her digestive system is working properly. But Franklin, I swear she’s thinner. She’s eating more than ever but she’s getting thinner by the day.”

“I’ll cut my trip short,” he said, reaching for his laptop to start emailing. “I’ll be home tomorrow, ok? Just hang in there. I’ll leave first thing.”

*

“It’s that box, I’m telling you.”

“The doctor thinks it’s a learned behaviour.”

“Learned from who?” Sarah snapped. “We haven’t taught her to eat like an animal.”

“No. But we did let her have meals out that box for that first week.”

“Because you said it was a phase. You said she’d get bored.”

“Look, Sare, I get you’re worried, ok? I’m worried too. But we need to be a team on this, ok? Nan is never going to get round this if we don’t present a united front.”

Sarah nodded, looking toward the dining room. Rhiannon was on her chair, the lunchbox in front of her on the table and she was scooping giant spoonfuls of cornflakes from the lid into her mouth with a wide grin on her face. Her cheekbones stood out and her eyes looked sunken. Franklin almost didn’t recognise his daughter any more.

“We should get it sent off for tests, see if there’s something addictive in the metal,” Sarah floundered.

“I’ve asked Mum about it,” Franklin ventured. “She refused to answer me directly. She just told me to get rid of it.”

“Did she say why?”

Franklin shook his head, rubbing his neck and biting his lip.

“What is it? What aren’t you saying?”

“Honestly, I sometimes think my Mum’s as mad as Gran was.”

“Franklin? What did she say?”

Franklin swallowed. “She told me to not just chuck it. She said to put it in the furnace at the tip, and to make sure it went in the furnace too.”

“Why?” Sarah asked, a little breathless.

“I don’t know. But really, scratch the surface and Mum has weird things about her just like Gran did.”

“This is all weird. Look at her,” Sarah said, turning back to the table. “Just look at our daughter, Franklin. That’s not normal.”

Franklin wanted to argue, to put his arm around his wife and tell her it was all ok, but when Rhiannon tipped the last of the milk from the box down her throat then immediately reached for the box of cereal again he couldn’t bring himself to move.

“We’ll get it off her tomorrow. We’ll take it to the tip.”

Sarah nodded, though the set of her mouth told him she was dreading taking it away from her as much as he was. And that she was hoping it wasn’t already too late.

“Tomorrow,” was all she said.

*

“Rhiannon,” Sarah started, rubbing sleep from her eyes and fumbling for the bedside light. “What are you doing out of bed?”

“I’m still hungry, Mummy.”

“What?” Sarah clicked don the light. Rhiannon didn’t blink. “Good Christ, Nan, what’s that? Is that blood?”

“I’m still hungry.”

Sarah reached out to shake her husband awake, felt a cloying stickiness under her hand, looked over and screamed.

*

“Now don’t you worry, honey,” Constable Jenkins said, helping Rhiannon put her coat on over her nightdress. “It’s all going to be ok, alright?”

“I’m hungry,” the little girl whispered, clutching a metal box to her chest.

“Well don’t worry,” Jenkins said kindly as she led the little girl by the hand to the police car. “We’ll stop somewhere for breakfast along the way. We just gotta take you to the station to talk to a few people, then your grandma’s gonna come get you from there, ok?”

Rhiannon nodded and got into the car, face blank and empty, arms holding the box close.

“Poor kid,” the woman said as she shut the door. “She’d barely saying anything, Horton. I don’t think she’s understood what’s happened.”

“I hope she doesn’t,” Jenkins’s partner said, looking back at the taped-off house with a pale face. “What are they saying? Animal attack?”

“Yeah,” Jenkins said with a wince. “Though there was blood in the shower too. You ever know an animal to wash itself off?”

Horton shuddered. “More than happy to leave this one to the CID. Come on, let’s get this kid back as quickly as possible.”

“She’s hungry,” Jenkins said as she climbed into eh driver’s seat. “We need to stop off somewhere to grab her some breakfast.”

“Well that’s a good sign, kiddo,” the man said, twisting in his seat. “Eating is good at a time like this. We’ll get you something really tasty ok?”

“I want to eat it in my box,” the little girl mumbled.

“Sure thing, honey,” Jenkins said, pulling the car out into the street. “No harm in that.”

“Can I just take a look?” Horton said, reaching into the back seat. “Make sure it’s clean and everything?”

“It’s clean,” the little girl insisted. “Daddy said I have to clean it after every meal.”

“I’m sure he did,” the man said, still holding out his hand. “But just let me look, ok? You can have it right back.”

The young girl gave him a long, appraising look then handed it over. Horton checked it over and checked inside. “Yeah, it looks clean,” he mumbled.

“What a weird lunchbox. It looks old.”

“Yeah,” her partner replied and squinting at some text along the bottom. “There’s a weird design on the bottom here.”

“Design?”

“Yeah…can’t tell what it is, never seen it before. Looks like it’s been scratched on. And words. Baba Yaga something something? What the hell’s that?”

“You got me. Sounds foreign.”

“The report says the guy’s grandmother was Eastern European,” he handed the box back to their young charge who snatched it back. “Must be a family heirloom.”

“You take good care of the box now then, Rhiannon,” Jenkins addressed the young girl in the rear view mirror. “I bet it was very dear to your family and it’s yours now.”

“It’s always been mine,” Rhiannon said, softly. Something flashed over her face and her nose crinkled like she was about to cry.

“You ok, kiddo?”

“It’s my fault.”

“Now, don’t say that. Nothing is your fault, you hear?”

She muttered something.

“Speak up, honey,” the policewoman said, turning off the crackling police radio. “I didn’t catch that.”

“I let her out.”

Jenkins tried to ask her what she meant but her face blanked out again and she didn’t say anything more.

*

“I’m telling you the poor kid’s in shock. I don’t care if we found her in her bed, kids have a sense of these sort of things. You’re not telling me she doesn’t know something awful’s happened.”

“You call it shock,” Horton said, pouring himself another coffee. “I call it full-on crazy.”

“Yeah and you tell me you wouldn’t act crazy at her age if your folks were torn apart in the next room.”

“I’m sure Mum would have mentioned if I ever started screaming bloody murder when she tried and took my lunchbox off me,” Horton muttered, sipping his coffee. “That didn’t even sound English to me.”

Jenkins opened her mouth to reply when there was a crash and shouts from down the hall.

“What’s happening?” Horton cried as he and Jenkins came up against the duty sergeant who was waving people away from the interrogation cells.

“Get back, get back folks. There’s an ambulance on its way. You need to make room.”

“Jesus,” Jenkins said, noticing smashed glass on the floor interspersed with blood spatters. “What’s happened?”

“That kid,” one of the other duty officers said, white-faced. “She’s escaped.”

“Escaped? How?”

The officer looked at Jenkins, eyes wide. “She attacked the DCI, got out into the corridor and went out the street window.”

“Attacked him?”

The woman nodded. “Bit him. Badly.”

“How badly?” Jenkins asked, stomach flipping.

The woman, if possible, paled further. “Really badly.”

Jenkins and Horton stood frozen until they were elbowed out the way by more detectives heading to the cells followed closely by paramedics.

*

“I don’t know about you but this is turning into one of the weirdest day’s I’ve ever had.”

“Stop joking,” Jenkins said as she steered the car round a bend. “This is serious.”

“You don’t have to tell me,” Horton said with a huff. “Rabid child from hell loose in the streets? I ruddy hope we get paid overtime for this.”

“Just keep your eyes open – ”

The radio crackled, asking for any units in the vicinity of the Black Lund Industrial Estate.

“Unit 654 responding,” Jenkins said into their radio with a sinking feeling. “We’re not far, Control.”

“Reports of someone stealing from the meat locker here, 654. Someone busted through their window and dragged off half a cow carcass.”

“So?”

“Witness said it was a kid.”

Horton and Jenkins exchanged glances. “When was this?”

“Within the last hour, 654.”

“Fine, we’ll check it out.”

“Secure the suspect. Back up is on its way.”

“Roger. Out.”

“Jesus, Jenkins,” Horton moaned as she turned toward the estate. “We should wait for backup.”

“What, you want an armed unit to back you up against a seven year old girl?”

“Just cos you’re soft on her,” Horton moaned. “She’s dangerous, Jenkins. She must be drugged or having an episode or something. She’s no ordinary little girl.”

Jenkins ignored the continue protests of her partner, hushing him to silence when they pulled up outside the meat locker. She could see the smashed window, ten feet up along the side of the large building. They got out the car and she could see a trail of smashed glass and the sign of something moist being dragged off into the shadows of the next building.

“You go talk to the owner,” Jenkins said, following the trail. “I’ll check this way.”

Horton offered a token argument against her going off on her own but then took the opportunity to scurry off in the opposite direction. Jenkins followed the trail. It was just past midday and the sun was hot and high, but the shadows between these tall concrete buildings were thick and cool. It kept the moisture trail from dissipating and she followed it to an outbuilding the doors of which had been forced.

Jenkins’s stomach clenched as she heard the loud, wet sounds of tearing meat. She took a deep breath then stepped into the doorway of the outbuilding.

Silence fell. It was dark inside, there were no windows, but she could see the red exposed flesh and jutting bone of the end of a large beef joint on the floor in the light form the door.

Jenkins swallowed. “Rhiannon?” She asked quietly. “Rhiannon, honey? Are you in there?”

Silence.

Jenkins couldn’t suppress the instinct to put her hand on her taser but kept her voice soft and warm as she took a step into the dark space. “Come on, sweetheart. Don’t be scared. You’re not in trouble right now. Come out, honey. Come out so I can help you.”

“I’m hungry.”

Jenkins suppressed a shudder. It was the little girl’s voice but it didn’t sound right. It was harsher and the words had the edge of an accent.

“Well come out and we’ll go get you some food, ok? Some proper food. You don’t want to eat that, it’s not cooked.”

There was the slow, deliberate sound of a bite being taken and the ripping noise of fleshing being torn and then the sound of chewing.

“Rhiannon,” Jenkins said, allowing her voice to take on a firm edge she had used with her own daughters when they’d been her age and took another tentative step into the shadows. “Come out, now. I won’t ask you again.”

There was a sudden noise like a scream but with more anger than fear loaded in it, then a shape leapt out of the shadows. The girl full body weight hit Jenkins right in the stomach and barrelled her over. Jenkins tried desperately to pull her taser up, but the girl had hideous strength and dug her fingers with wickedly sharp nails into her arm and face. She wrenched Jenkins’ head over. Her face was a hideous mask of fury, desperation and hunger, filthy with blood and meat juice. Jenkins only caught a glimpse before the girl opened her mouth and went for her throat.

There was a yells and a sound of a shot and then the weight was gone from her chest. Horton was there, putting away a gun and helping her up.

“Hey, are you alright?”

“You killed her?” Jenkins cried, looking at the crumpled shape of the little girl on the dusty floor.

“She was about to kill you,” Horton protested.

“She was a child, Horton,” Jenkins said, though couldn’t stop her voice from shaking.

“Seemed she had the better of you, my friend.”

“Where did the gun come from?” Jenkins asked as she staggered upright, noticing her partner’s bulletproof vest.

“Back up’s here,” Horton explained, casting a wary glance at the small shape on the floor. “They got some results in from the attack on her folks and the DCI. There’s something up with her DNA, apparently. She wasn’t a normal kid, like I said. Come on, we should get you to the ambulance. You’ve got blood on you.”

“It’s not my blood…” Jenkins murmured, swiping angrily at her eyes and cursing the relief she felt even over the curious rushing in her chest and churning in her stomach.

*

“Listen, Ms. Jenkins,” the harried doctor said impatiently as he shoved her file back on the clip at the end of her bed. “There is nothing physically wrong with you. You have to accept that shock and stress must be having more of an effect on you than you think.”

“I’ve been shocked and stressed more times than I’ve not been, doctor,” Jenkins protested, twisting the hospital bed sheet in her hands. “I’m telling you, something’s not right. I feel…weird.”

The doctor sighed. “All your blood tests came back clear. I’m recommending keeping you in for one more night of monitoring, but I really think you should go home tomorrow and try to take it easy.”

She was about to argue more when the doctor’s bleep went off at his belt. He pulled it up and read the screen with a heavy frown.

“I’ve got to go,” he said, with a distracted air and fled the room before Jenkins could stop him.

“Hey,” she called, desperation clenching her chest. She staggered from the bed and padded to the doorway. “Hey! Anybody? Can anyone tell me what’s happening with me?”

But no one was listening. The nursing staff was gathered at the nurse’s station with their heads bent together looking pale and chattering under their breath. A few patients stood round looking confused. Support workers were trying to usher people back to their rooms.

“Please, you need to get back in bed, Ms. Jenkins,” one of the green-scrubbed support workers said waving her back from the door.

“What’s going on?”

“A minor emergency, nothing for you to worry about, but everyone needs to get back in their rooms and shut the doors. Thank you,” she added as an afterthought before shutting Jenkins’s door firmly.

Jenkins blinked at the wood. Her skin still felt clammy and her stomach felt more like a sucking void of nothing than ever, but something else was causing goose pimples to ripple across her skin. She grabbed her mobile off her nightstand.

“Horton,” she said when her partner answered. “You on duty?”

“Sure am. How you feeling?”

“Never mind that. Have any alerts come in from my hospital?”

“What?”

“Just check, will you?”

Horton sighed. “Which hospital you at?”

“Central Infirmary.”

There was such a long silence that Jenkins thought they’d been cut off.

“Horton, you there? What is it?”

“I don’t get it…”

“Don’t get what.”

“That’s where they sent the little girl for her autopsy. But…”

“’But’?”

Another pause. “She’s gone.”

“What do you mean, ‘she’s gone’?”

“That’s what it says. Someone reported and attack on the morgue staff and the body’s…gone.”

“What sort of attack?” Jenkins’s voice cracked.

“They’re saying…animal attack. God, it can’t be…”

Jenkins thought of the girl’s twisted face just before she leapt on her.

“Jenkins, just get out of there, ok?”

Jenkins didn’t understand but she decided in the second it took her to hang up the phone that she didn’t need to. She dressed herself quickly and left her room. All the ward staff were clustered around a single nurse that was on the phone, face blank and pale as she relayed what was being said and didn’t notice her leave. She hurried down the bleached white corridor, sweating. She had to pause to lean on a rail at the top of a set of stairs. Her stomach cramps were worse than ever. It felt like she’d never eaten, ever. But she forced herself to move on.

She climbed the stairs, looking anywhere for a way out. There was an alarm going off, but it was distant and intermittent. The corridors were strangely empty. There was a vending machine on the next landing down and she ran for it before she was even thought about what she was doing. She forgot everything in the struggle to get coins out of her pocket with her shaking hand.

She didn’t look at the numbers but slammed her palm into the keypad and tore the packet that was dispensed open without even looking what it was. She came back to herself sat on the floor, gnawing on the inside of the empty crisp packet, the yawning sensation inside her more prominent than ever.

She tossed it away t and scrabbled away from it like it would bite. She sat against the wall, staring at the empty packet, holed where her teeth had gone through the foil. The vending machine hummed away and took an amount of strength that made her sweat not to rush over to it and smash it open. Hunger wasn’t the word for what she felt. There wasn’t a word for what she felt.

“What the hell is wrong with me?”

She froze when she heard light footsteps coming up the staircase. The alarm had silence and the air in the stairwell was still. The footsteps didn’t rush and they weren’t loud, but she heard every one.

Rhiannon stepped into sight. Her feet were bare. She was in a hospital down. Her skin was greyish, her blonde hair hung round her face like ropes, lank and colourless. Her eyes had gone from brown to black, gaping like wells. She was smiling. There were marks in her lower lips like she’d been chewing on it.

“There you are.”

“What…? What are you?” Jenkins managed, getting to her feet, arm clutched over her stomach.

“You feel her too,” the girl said. “She’s hungry.”

“What?”

The little girl held her hand out. “Baba Yaga needs more. Let’s go hunt.”

Jenkins ran. The girl didn’t follow but it felt like she was right behind her the whole way. It was like she was in her skin. Police cars were pulling up at the entrance when she staggered out. She slipped through the crowd of confused a worried-look staff, patients and visitors clustered at the entrance, not wanting to be recognised by any of her colleagues. She didn’t know where she was going, she just had to get away.

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