The Empty Bloke

He’d just blown in from Overseas
He’d got himself a tan
He seemed to think much of himself
This flabby, smirking man

He tried to shake a woman’s hand
She turned the other way
His moment gone, he snarled and left
He wasn’t one to stay

We needed you, they said to him
Why weren’t you here last week?
“I don’t hold a hose, mate.”
He said and gave a wink.

I’m too busy with the planning
And oversight and stuff
I’ve got responsibilities, and things to do
I really do enough.

The people shrugged their shoulders
And went about their day
They washed the ash out from their clothes
There was nothing else to say

The smirking man he went back home
And prayed and sang and lied
The Ruby Princess docked one day
And then some people died

Words were said and fingers pointed
The smirking man knew nothing
“It must be someone else’s fault,
I swear I don’t know nothing.”

And in nursing homes the aged, they died
And Scotty shrugged his shoulders
“We’re in charge,” he smirked once more
“But we are not responsible.”

Then what do you do? The people cried.
What’s your role in this?
Scotty smirked, and drank a beer
“I’m just here to take the piss.”

Audio Blog 2025

Is this thing on?

I am old now, so perhaps I can share some perspective with you about where we are headed.

When all this began, I wasn’t concerned. I was amused and perhaps hopeful.

I thought that it was a good thing that He would shake things up. I thought it was a bit of a joke, really and that if anything, it would make everything better.

I thought it would perhaps bring back something that we were told was missing. Order, pride, a sense of belonging. We thought that it would be the rebirth of what we were always told we were, but what we knew we were no longer.

I am old now, and finally I can say I was wrong.

I was wrong, and I am sorry.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter. There are so few people to hear this apology anyway. Who is listening these days, anyone?

Where was I? Oh, where we are headed.

We’re headed to hell. Not heaven and hell, hell, but hell on earth; the hell of our own making. The hell that we deserve. The hell that our children never deserved.

They still don’t.

We’re being told things are good, that they’re better than ever. We’re fed lies through our television and through the radio and on the internet. We’re fed lies like we’re geese being fattened so our livers can be made into pate and the rest of us discarded because we’re too hard to process, to expensive to utilise entirely and so we’re thrown away.

I’m rambling, I’m sorry. Perhaps I’m still angry after all.

We’re at the gates of hell. Our water is running out, the stuff we’ve got we can’t be drunk and the stuff that’s good we can’t afford. Our farms are dead or owned by folk who won’t sell to us at prices we can afford. They’d rather burn their crops than feed us for a dollar less than what they desire. We’re led by men, and women, sometimes, who talk about the nation but are concerned only for themselves and we have no power, no right to change things anymore, we gave away that right. We cheered as we did, too.

We thought we were getting change. Shaking things up. All we got was a selfish man who sold our freedom for photo opportunities and then bought the right to own us.

And we cheered.

We waved flags.

We bought the hats and shirts, we gathered while we died of a virus, we lost our homes when our insurance companies reneged on their promises and the President just shrugged and laughed and told us we were suckers.

Now we die quiet like, too poor to go to the hospital, too scared to protest, we can’t.

The only time we gather is to give praise, to cheer for a man who has watched us die and said nothing.

That’s not true, he’s said plenty.

He’s said that it’s nothing to worry about, that it will go away, that it will be fixed, that it’s a scam, a plot, a con, that it’s just another way his enemies, enemies of the state, are trying to bring him down.

And we cheered for him when he said it.

We stood there in front of him, cheering and clapping and cursing our enemies, the ones who called him a liar and a thief, we cursed them for failing in their duty to love our leader and our nation.

We went to war against them.

We marched the streets and sacked their communities, we pilloried them and fought them with bats and bottles and knives, we ran into them with cars and burnt down their homes and we cheered, we cheered when we did so.

We laughed when the President protected us by executive order, we laughed when it was them that was put in jail and we walked free and powerful through the streets, brandishing our god given weapons, loving the power we had. We finally had taken our country back and we could be on top once more.

But the jobs never came back, the wall never got built, not properly. It wouldn’t have mattered if it did, I see that now. We just sat at home, living day to day, hoping the economy would recover but it didn’t. The only jobs going were for the patriot militia, for the paid cheer squads at the rallies. There weren’t no jobs in shops, or factories, there weren’t no jobs to make our fortune but still some people did. They made money off our misery. They scraped the barrel clean of our taxes and used them to feather their own nests.

Alligators given a bigger swamp.

I’m too tired to think of it now. I was going to explain, but there’s no point.

There’s no hope anymore.

We traded it for hate, and now we’re empty.

Iso 2023

The sound of a cough startled Will from his state of introspection. He looked around, trying to find the source. Across the road, sitting on a faded beach towel, was a homeless woman. Her rumpled clothes drawn tight around her despite the relative warmth of the day. A beaten red cap perched on her head shading her downturned face as she coughed again. Even from this distance, Will could see the flecks of spittle eject from her mouth and hit the dust laden street, gathering particles around itself until it rolled, ball-like to a halt.

Will continued walking, his face was hidden behind a mask of cloth; the double wadded material a barrier against the invisible enemy that still lurked in the air, despite three years of war. Besides the homeless woman, few people were about. Where possible a lot of people simply stayed home, but Will had no car and the buses had long been cancelled. He needed supplies and that meant he needed to risk the walk to the supermarket.

A crow called to him from its perch on top of a shop front. The shop itself was closed down. Once it had sold trinkets and cheap things, a two dollar shop. But the shop hadn’t been able to withstand the long slow famine of consumers that had followed the first and second waves of the virus and so, like so many others, had closed its doors, the smiling, happy woman who’d manned the counter disappearing from sight, never to return.

The day was warm, unseasonably so and a few years ago, Will would have unconsciously enjoyed that fact. Now though he felt the cruel consequences of the mild weather. A lack of rain had pushed the water table to its limits and the farming communities that surrounded the towns had all but collapsed, unable to cope with a crippled market and an increase in irrigation costs.

The woman coughed again, but Will was well past her now and didn’t look back. If she had the virus there was nothing he could do to help, it was best he simply avoided her and left her in God’s hands. Will was a believer, it gave him strength in this time of uncertainty. His faith wasn’t the new, singing dancing type of faith but the old introspective type, serious and quiet rather than uplifting. He read the dogeared pages of his bible with a grim certainty that the answers he sought would be found somewhere within; he had nothing else to believe in.

The grocery store was up ahead. Although the door was closed the sign said “Open” and Will could see Martha behind the counter inside. He trudged up the three steps that led to the door and pushed his way through, a door alarm hee-haying like a donkey as he entered.

“Martha.” Muttered Will, by way of greeting.


There wasn’t any small talk beyond that at first. Will simply walked to the third aisle and then made his way down to stand before the loaves of discounted bread. Pickings were slim. Will preferred a hi-top white loaf, the type with little sesame seeds on top, but there wasn’t any available and hadn’t been for some time. There were four loaves of the plain, mass produced white that felt thick and heavy on the tongue, loaded down with sugars to prevent spoiling before time. Will took a loaf and then, after pushing his hand into his pocket and checking how much change lay there, took a second. He walked back to the counter, Martha leaning heavily as she waited.

“Just these?” she asked. Her voice seemed to hope for an upsell, but Will didn’t have the money for that.

“Just these.”

Martha rang the bread up on the till and Will slid a crumpled note and two coins across the counter. Martha stared at the money for a brief second, calculating if perhaps it was infected with the virus, before picking it up and dumping in the register.

“Seeya.” She said.


Will left the shop and began to make his way home. The summer air was still and stagnant, although it wasn’t uncomfortably warm there was no moisture in the air and he could feel his eyes drying from the lack of humidity. He tried to stave off the uncomfortable feeling by squinting but that only caused his eyelids to twitch.

The homeless woman still sat on her blanket, Will watched her from the corner of his eye but looked away as her gaze turned to watch him in turn. He’d never been good at acknowledging things that made him uncomfortable. Up ahead a police cruiser turned onto the street, slowly patrolling, the armoured officer in the passenger seat peering at Will as the vehicle drew close, the driver staring straight ahead. The car was clean, it stood out by that fact alone, precious water and polish making it gleam, red white and blue, a large US flag emblazoned on its side. American Patriot Patrol, stamped on its bonnet and tail and along both sides. A smaller version of the audio-blasters found on the riot trucks shuddered on the cruiser’s roof, it turned toward Will as the car slid past him, ready to punish him with waves of sound if he looked dangerous.

Will wasn’t too concerned, his skin wasn’t so dark that he’d be mistaken for a latino, the tan on his face was that of a country boy, not a migrant or refugee.

He continued on. His home was a mere five minutes from the grocer but the walk seemed to drag more than likely, every step a little heavier than the last. The cruiser, now out of sight, blurted a klaxon warning at something and Will felt his heart begin to race. He wasn’t the target, but that was scant comfort. He knew more cruisers would arrive in moments and then anyone on the street would need to be careful, it was best he got home fast.

Will hurried now, his worn sneakers scuffing against the broken pavement; he hurried across the road and looked up to see his apartment building, an ugly former motel with flaking blue paint and an empty pool, bought up in the wake of the last wave by some out of towner and used now for cheap housing. Will felt grateful he had a place to live, but knew that the owner hadn’t bought the place out of the goodness of his heart.

Will’s apartment stood on the second floor, the exterior stairs, cast from concrete painted the same tired pastel blue, loomed close and Will climbed up, taking care not to lean on the rusting iron rail that threatened to collapse under any weight at all.

Apartment number six. Will fished a ring of keys from the pocket of his jeans, then slid three out of the way and shoved the fourth into the tumbler. He pushed, once and then again as the door stuck a little at the bottom, the result of damp getting in some years before Will lived here. The door opened and a square of dusty yellow light illuminated the space beyond. Worn furnishings, a sofa lounge and a bookcase empty of books, but full with neglected DVD’s and a plastic statue of buddha. This was Will’s home. Four small rooms denoting his existence. A lounge and dining room with the sofa, a card table and a second-hand television. A kitchen with a two burner stove and a buzzing bar fridge, a bathroom so tight the toilet pushed up against the shower cubicle and its yellowed plastic curtain and finally a bedroom big enough for Will’s single bed, which sat unmade, the wrinkled white sheets heavy with night sweat. There was no laundry or space for one and each room led to the next, without corridors or hallways. The inside walls had once been an eggshell white but cigarette smoke had coloured it yellow towards the top and the corners were as brown as rotting teeth. No repairs had been done in over a decade and it was only through care and tinkering that Will managed to keep the sparse utilities functioning at all. He didn’t mind; at least he had shelter.

Will carried the two loaves of bread to the kitchen and placed them on the bench by the window. He looked outside, the three dying palms that edged the empty pool with its broken tiles had begun to sway in the wind and Will expected that the weather would soon turn nasty.

Will stood there for long moments, watching the street and eddies of dust that now began to dance along the way, pushed by invisible fingers before settling into the nooks and cracks of doorways and windows. He stared up the street to where he could see the homeless woman in her red cap, hunkering down against the steadily rising wind.

The tin roof began to rattle and a dessicated frond fell from one of the palm trees, crashing to the ground and then sliding into the pool’s bottom to lie next to a discarded rusting shopping trolley.

The homeless woman hunkered down, drawing her towel over her head and leaning close to the ground. Will wondered for a moment why she didn’t stand and leave to find somewhere more sheltered but realised she wouldn’t. She was too stubborn, too entrenched to admit that perhaps it was okay to move.

The police cruiser returned along the way, now on the opposite side of the road but still crawling along patiently, like an ambush predator. It slowed down as it passed the homeless woman and its siren blurted briefly; the woman looked out, her red cap sticking out from the mass of wrapped towel and the cruiser pushed on again. Will left the window and slumped on the sofa. He pushed off his sneakers and wrinkled his nose at the ripe odour of his socks. His clothes were in need of a wash but the laundromat was a good half hour away by foot and often there was a line. Will tried to spend as little time near other people as possible, to the point that he’d cut off many of his acquaintances; he didn’t call them friends. He’d always taken precautions against infection, it just seemed the best option.

His hand strayed toward the remote control, hovering above the small black rectangle for a moment. He was not sure if he wanted to watch anything, despite having little else to do. Turning on the television would mean he’d need to see endless images of the President, advertisements, promotions, warnings and of course the multiple shows starring the man.

Will was exhausted by the way the man saturated the media, he was tired or hearing the awkward, poorly managed sentences, he was tired, just tired. He leaned back and left the remote where it was.

Will’s ears rang. He guessed it was the result of dehydration, the same reason for his constant, niggling headache. He had no safe drinking water but he did have a generic cola in his buzzing bar fridge. With little enthusiasm, he stood, moved to the kitchen and collected a can, then drank it in front of the sink, looking out of the window once again.

The homeless woman was hidden by the shifting clouds of yellow-grey dust, nothing else moved on the street. This was life in isolation, 2023.

The Preacher

“The End is nigh!” screamed the filthy old man, as he staggered, directionless through the muddy streets of ScumTown.

Clad in the hanging rags of one who once worked in an office, the tattered remains of a grime encrusted suit hanging from his shoulders, his tie abandoned and his feet bare the man’s eyes were wild as he shouted his promises to the uncaring passers by.

“This world will burn in hellfire, I have seen it.” he bawls at a mother carrying her swaddled infant on her way to fetch water.

The preacher spins around as the mother ignores him and fixes his gaze upon a pair of urchins, both girls in their late teenage years.

“You two, did you know what it coming? Have you seen Revelation?” the preacher hisses.

The taller of the two, with auburn hair tied in a loose pony tail give the preacher a lopsided grin and shrugs; the other, her dusky face almost hidden under a tangle of black dreadlocks averts her gaze; unwilling to face the madness head on.

“You too will play a part.” Continues the preacher, licking cracking lips with a tongue thick from shouting. “Yes you shall, all will play parts but you and you most of all.”

He turns away and stumbles on, catching the arm of a labourer as he passes with a bundle of scavenged timber packed on his back.

“The strong will be brought low, the weak will perish, sinners will become what they wish most and that will be their eternal doom. Repent wrathful one and put away your anger.”

The labourer shoves the preacher away, knocking the man to the ground where he lands in a puddle of muck; the preacher seems not to care as he stands once more and seeks another target.

Now people avoid his gaze and a large circle has opened up around him, giving the insanity room to breathe. The preacher sees an opportunity and clambers up on a pile of discarded trash to issue a sermon.

“Our doom is not of the other but of ourselves, we and our sins have set the scene for calamity my friends and I tell you now that only the blessed few will survive.”

Few people pay attention to the preacher, although none know where he came from or who he is. Perhaps he was struck on the head, some muse; perhaps he’s a drug addict, abandoned by the corporate hell that spawned him and cast adrift here in ScumTown; where the forgotten cling to lost memories and lost hopes.

The preacher still rambles, nodding his head and bellowing into a shabby beard. “We have placed our faith in science and through science will we be damned, repent and face the truth; that only in submission to the plans of God will be find salvation, time is short and the end draws near.”

Still the preacher is ignored and he stops his sermon for a moment to peer at the crowd with rheumy eyes. He never asked for this, to know the future of these people and of all others; he never asked for the life he had or the one he has now; he is just a messenger, but no one will listen.

“Won’t your listen? Won’t you hear the words that will lead you to salvation? Friends?” he urges.

The crowd of poor and destitute inhabitants of ScumTown continues to flow around his island of piety; godless and having forgotten where they fit in the great plan.

The preacher grows angry and frustrated. He speaks to them but they do not listen, how can he save them when they are blind to the truth of what he says? How can they be saved if they do not see the danger?

The preacher’s shoulders slump and he steps down from the pile of rubbish, dejected and empty. Head down he shuffles through the crowds, now no longer a brimstone preacher but just another emaciated vagrant set adrift from the Upper City.

He stumbles to his camp, a bed of torn rags and a smouldering campfire beneath the sagging remains of the Torrens Bridge. Dozens of others huddle around their own fires or sleep in their nests; their lives empty of purpose beyond surviving just one more day.

“We are damned,” mutters the preacher to himself, “these tired souls have not the energy to save themselves and they will undoubtedly become victims of the day when hell walks the streets.”

“Shut up.” Shouts a nearby vagrant, “We’re trying to sleep here.”

The preacher feels his rage building despite himself, but forces it back down. He will not become a victim of the Sins; he will not allow his difficulties to control his destiny. He will survive.

He lays down to sleep and within moments of drifting away he is assaulted by the visions. Scenes of the insane damned stalking the very streets he walked on in the morning; flames burning through the shanty-town shacks and lean-tos. He sees the tide of gnashing teeth and clawing talons as the victims of Sin crowd together before twelve dread lords, apostles to the Lord or the Damned.

He sees the pain, the flesh, the fire and the endless torment that sheets down upon the earth like the acid rain in a thunderstorm.

He sees the hope. The girl from the morning, her dusky skin and dark eyes and her refusal to yield, her love, her dedication, her endless strength in the face of adversity. He sees the web of causality spread from her to a half dozen others and then to dozens more, then hundreds and he sees it finally enmesh every last thing on the planet.

In his sleep he moans with released relief, his heart beats faster as he witnesses the return of the Visitor and the beginning of Revelation.

His heart, in joyous rapture cannot continue and it stops cold as his brain tries in vain to continue tracking the infinite causality and consequence of a twenty billion intertwined destinies.

The vision fades and with it his breath, his body grows cold in the night and in the morning it is quietly removed and buried, without a word being said.

Excerpt: Omega Genesis Book 2

She didn’t feel it, but Margaret tried to look in control as she climbed the rear boarding ramp of her VTOL and called to the pilot to take off. The intercom clicked in confirmation and once the four passengers were inside the rear-ramp closed and the engines began to whine in preparation for take-off.

Slumping in her command cradle, Margaret allowed her helmet to disengage although she retained the rest of her form-fitting armour. She closed her eyes and tried to assess just what had happened.

She hadn’t been ready to believe Kallie was what she said until she actually changed form in front of her. Once that happened, Margaret knew the truth, she’d been duped by the same creature that had been the catalyst for the bombing and ruin of Adelaide in the first place. The very creature that had played a part in the deaths of her children. For a year, Margaret had been a plaything of whatever kind of creature Ragnara was, although she still wasn’t sure of what it was at all.

The VTOL rose smoothly into the air and began to fly West, Margaret had been outplayed this hand, but she still had some cards to use. Her years had never been spent idly and so she had personal assets in reserve to be called upon, assets that would allow her to regroup and plan her next moves.

Her destination was an offshore drilling platform, long abandoned after the crash of the petro-dollar. SeaCorp had ignored the oil leaking from the rig into the once pristine waters of the sea but Margaret had covertly purchased the installation and set about rebuilding it as a sanctuary of sorts. Occasionally she’d travel there for a much needed moment of solitude but she hadn’t been for several years now. She expected the facility would be dilapidated but unless she was incredibly unlucky, still serviceable.

The VTOL flew smoothly, keeping underneath the roiling clouds that lumbered across the sky. In her cot, Margaret was ready to drift off to sleep and find respite from the horror of Kallie’s betrayal when an alarm chimed and the pilot activated the intercom.

“Emergency, strap yourselves in, Ma’am, we’re being target locked.”

Margaret mentally activated her helmet’s comms.

“What? By whom?”

The pilot didn’t answer and instead the VTOL banked hard, the engines shrieking as they strove to avoid the incoming fire.

“Multiple locks, sentinel grade munitions.” Announced the pilot with remarkable calm. “We’re not getting out of this one. Eject now.”

Margaret wanted to protest and started to speak but one of her clones, she wasn’t sure which, hammered the eject button on her cot, closing her within an escape capsule that enveloped her cot and blasting her through an opening in the VTOL’s floor.

Margaret’s capsule spun end over end as she plummeted towards the frothing ocean below but between snatches of cloud she saw the VTOL explode into tiny pieces as a dozen missiles careened into it. Within seconds she felt the shock of the capsule impacting in the water and the air was driven from her lungs even within her armour. The force of the fall saw the pod dive deeper still until its buoyancy sensors arrested it and slowly pushed it towards the surface.

Bits of wreckage floated down around Margaret, spiralling through the grey waters and sinking into the lightless depths of the Southern Ocean.

The pod breached the surface and Margaret saw the last vestiges of smoke drift away on the wind. Now there was nothing she could do, except wait for the current to decide her fortune.

The Writers

Dimly glowing halogen globes lit the interior of the trash hovel, sticking out from the walls here and there, glass glow worms nestled amongst plastic leaves. Boli, clad in a ragged denim coat, singlet  and stained grey pants bustled about, trying to prepare himself for the meeting to come.

The set of electronics in the hovel stood in stark contrast to the organically organised patchwork walls. Carefully placed screens and hardware boxes hummed as they powered up, adding their faintly strobing light to that of the halogens.

Boli checked connections to his power sources, a trio of scavenged solar panels stationed outside and their attached generator battery, which sat on a crude platform, fashioned from pallet timber.

With his sleeping mat up against the wall in order to accommodate his electronics, Boli was forced to squat in front of the table on which his screen sat, an ancient LCD monitor which had no real rights to continue functioning, but which still did, unwilling t quit.

Boli noted the clock in the bottom corner of his main screens, it was time. Fingers danced over an oft-repaired keypad, dialling long sequences of numbers that would bring him to a hidden door within the network. A door to a virtual room where friends would meet and talk of the world in which they lived and the world which once was.

“Hello.” Breathed Boli, into the microphone glued onto the side of his screen.

Information pulsed on the monitor as pointless ad-ware continued to spruik products for dead companies, long forgotten by the march of years. This part of the net sat obsolete by the creation of the neuro-web and as a result was little more than a bone-yard for the corpses of social media programs, and associated apps.

For people like Boli this grave place of scorned software and cast-aside browser games was the perfect refuge and meeting place. A place where writers could share their thoughts and ideas, unbothered by the constant corporate scrutiny present on the neuro-web.

For long moments there was no reply from anyone else lurking in the chat room. This wasn’t surprising to Boli as nobody with much sense would reply without first checking for verification the speaker wasn’t a tracking bot or a long-abandoned malicious AI, seeking data-feeds to infect.

“Greetings, Boli.”

It wasn’t a voice, it was a line of text that appeared in white, comic sans font in a chat-box below the video feeds. The little icon next to the writing identified its owner as A-Nonny-Mouse, Boli’s infrequent chat partner.

“Hello, Nonny.” Replied Boli with a smile. He rubbed a hand through his ragged beard and narrowed his eyes to read what appeared next.

“You’re in Adelaide, yes?”

Boli raised his eyebrows, although Nonny may not have been able to see it, Boli wasn’t sure if they received video feed. The question was strange as normally the participants did not speak of their, or anyone else’s location for security reasons. That Nonny had done so meant something was up.

“I am, why?”

The reply came fast, as though it had already been typed.

“You need to get out. There’s something bad coming. Really bad.”


A third participant, along with a square in the video feed swirling into focus. The voice was soft and feminine, the face hidden behind a stylised fox-mask, the background darkened to hide anything that could be used to mark location.

“Huli-Jing” said Boli, “How are you?”

“Well, Boli. Nonny, what is wrong?”

There was a pause and Boli watched the cursor on his screen pulse as Nonny typed an answer.

“I cannot say, specifically. Something big. Something by Greenworth. It’s going to be bad.”

Boli knew of Greenworth, everyone did. The CEO of SeaCorp and most powerful man in the Southern Hemisphere; he was violent, sadistic and incredibly dangerous. The Corporate lord could order the killing of anyone without consequences and Boli had no doubt that if he wanted, Charles Greenworth could organise genocide and feel no remorse whatsoever. He had to take it seriously.

“I may know something of this.” Said Huli-Jing. “RedDragon have received data on something called Essence that Greenworth is using. A bio-agent of some kind. I thought it was a power source though, not an attack.”

The cursor flashed again, Nonny’s reply was swift.

“No, this is military. Codes have been sent to stations around the territories. I think it is a missile attack.”

“What, by Greenworth against Adelaide?” said Boli, “That’s mad, he lives here.”

There was nothing for a minute, Boli sighed.

“But it’s Greenworth.”

Huli-Jing’s face nodded on screen.

“Look, if this threat is real, I’m going to need some help getting the message out. There are a couple of other writers here in ScumTown and I’m sure there are some in the Upper City but they might not know about this. If we can warn enough people we can make sure we all get out safe.”

Nonny began to type a reply but then another of the video-blocks flared to life.

A refined, middle-aged man, dapper looking in a waistcoat and with regal, aquiline features spun into view.

“Boli? Oh I’m glad you’re here. You need to get word out, there’s an attack coming.”

Boli knew this speaker well; he was one of the writers who lived in the upper city.

“What is it, Jeeves?”

Jeeves, so named because he always looked dressed like a butler, looked behind him off-screen nervously, before returning his gaze.

“It’s Greenworth. He’s ordered a missile strike against ScumTown. He’s having a party to watch the destruction. He’s always been bad but there’s something really wrong with him now. I’ll try and stop this somehow, but just in case, you need to get word to the people.”

Boli thought that statement a bit hyperbolic. He wasn’t a leader, he was a writer and spent most of his time sharing his stories across the old internet, telling tales of heroism that he’d dreamed up during a rot-gut binge session.

“Jeeves, I dunno. I mean, what am I supposed to do? I’m just a writer.”

The butler’s normally controlled face split in frustration.

“Dammit man, that’s why it has to be you. You are a writer. Write damn it. Tell the people what is happening. Let them know. Tell everyone, all of us have to. If we don’t then Greenworth is just going to cover it up and people will die for nothing.”

Boli slumped back on his haunches, his face sliding into the shadows.

“Are you there still?” asked Huli-Jing, leaning forward towards her screen.

In the darkness, Boli nodded, and then answered in words.

“Yeah, I…I’m just not sure how to do this.”

Nonny’s cursor flashed and a reply appeared in the dialogue box.

“Tell those you know, help them get out. Then you need to show people what is happening.”

Boli gulped as he realised what they were saying.

“You mean, stay here and watch? That’s what you mean isn’t it.”

Jeeves nodded on his screen.

“I’m in Adelaide too,” said the butler, “but I can’t record it, I’ve got to try and stop Greenworth somehow.”

Huli-Jing interjected.

“I’m going to see if there’s anything I can do from here, help get warnings out, tell people to hack feeds so we get coverage. If Greenworth is targeting his own people perhaps they will rise up.”

Boli laughed.

“Nah, no one is going to do that.” he turned serious before adding. “Greenworth will crush any who resist him.”

Boli shifted into silence again as he considered his options. Nobody else spoke.

“Okay, let’s do this.” He finally said with a sigh.

The following hours were spent by the writing clique contacting allies, spreading the word about the rumoured attack. At some point, Boli stepped outside his shack and took a breath of the humid night air, the scent of jasmine drifting towards him on the wind from old Myrtle’s hut. The lights were on which was strange as usually the crone would be long asleep. He walked over to the hut, Myrtle was a leader of sorts amongst the scummers and would have an idea of what could be done in a situation like this.

Boli knocked on the plastic slab that served as a door. It opened quickly, Myrtle, five feet of scarred, grey haired cantankerousness peered out at him.

“Boli? What’s wrong?”

Boli wasn’t surprised Myrtle thought something was wrong, he rarely left his dwelling and when he did he wasn’t the sort to visit others.

“Myrtle, I’m really sorry to bother you but I think something bad is going to happen. We need to warn the people.”

Myrtle looked over her shoulder toward something Boli couldn’t see and then stepped outside, closing the door behind herself.

“Go on.”

“I think SeaCorp are planning to attack us with missiles or something like that. I’m not sure but my sources are pretty sure. We need to get everyone out of ScumTown.”

Myrtle’s eyes narrowed. Boli knew the matriarch of ScumTown had little time for him. He rarely contributed to the community garden and when his help was needed he charged heavily for it.

“Right, so what do you expect me to do?”

Boli gaped like a fish for a moment. He wasn’t a leader, Myrtle was, she was supposed to have the answers.

The old woman scowled at Boli for a second or two then turned away. She pushed open her door, regarded whatever it was inside and then turned back to Boli.

“Here’s what needs to happen. You spread the word using the net. Everywhere, then you get out there and tell everyone you can. Knock on doors, tell people on the streets. Get people to head into the old sewers. That should protect them unless Greenworth intend to bring the whole city down.”

Boli nodded, relieved that Myrtle had believed him.

“What are you going to do?”

Myrtle snorted and stepped inside her home.

“I’m old.” She said. “I’m getting some sleep.”

Boli didn’t sleep for the rest of the night as he sent out as many messages to as many contacts as he could. He wrote dozens on repeating notice boards, sent details to inboxes and pushed notifications through to contacts personal devices. He saw at least a few people had noticed them and were sending back questions. He sent back a single sentence.

“No time, get out now.”

Dawn was breaking as he stood up from behind his monitor, rubbed his eyes and prepared to leave ScumTown.

It didn’t take long to pack. Boli had no idea what was going to happen and in any case, he didn’t have the supplies to ready himself for a long time away from home. He made sure to collect his pair of rechargeable energy nodes and his small, little used tablet. He stuffed everything into a double bound pair of plastic bags and hurried out into the salt-tinged air, desperate to find safe ground.

The sun rose over the hills to the East, painting the silver towers of the Upper City with golden highlights, though ScumTown still sat shrouded in deep shadows. Out towards the sea, to the west, dark clouds hung low to the horizon.

Boli moved south, heading towards the tail end of the Upper City where the towers met the sea. From there he hoped he would be able to view anything that befell ScumTown while remaining safe from the worst of any calamity. Surely, even though Greenworth was mad, he would not subject his own kind to a military strike.

At the edge of the concrete platforms that designated the edge of Marion commune, he gingerly stepped into the knee-deep waters of ScumTown’s lagoon. Boli pushed himself through the weed-choked morass, keeping his arms high to hold his precious bag away from the salty brine. He paused and turned back towards his hovel, hoping that this wouldn’t be the last time he saw it. After a moment of wistfulness, Boli kept walking.

It was a good forty minutes before Boli finally placed his feet on dry land, the cracked bitumen of a battered highway that stretched south. It would be faster than picking his way through the maze of shantytowns and trash houses that sat on either side so Boli took to it with vigour, his slowly rising fear lending him speed.

Boli wasn’t fit. Soon his heart was beating fast in his chest and a thin sheen of sweat coated his face and arms despite the chilly air.

Although it was still the half-light of post-dawn, Boli began to pass other people on the road. Those who gave him a nod of greeting he hurried over to and explained his fears. A few scoffed, others seemed to take his message seriously and took their leave, thanking him for the news. The Scummers who scowled or ignored him entirely were given short shrift. Boli didn’t have the time to be a martyr and lacked any intention to sacrifice his own life for the sake of others.

After an hour, he needed to sit down. He was close to the great wall that separated ScumTown from the Upper City; the monolithic concrete edifice loomed close enough to cast its shadow over the huts and Boli as he stood looking up.

Scaffolding leaned against the wall every hundred or so metres, the barrier a pointless exercise in vainglory by some previous controller of the Upper City. Now, without guards to patrol its boundary it was merely another canvas for graffiti artists and another anchor point for the barnacle trash-houses that clung to its surfaces. Boli stepped up to a rusting iron ladder and climbed up to the first level of patchwork scaffolding, pausing at the top to catch his breath. His shoulder ached now from hauling the strained plastic bag full of vital electronics but Boli didn’t even consider leaving it here. He might not be a hero, but his writing tools were his only reason for existing most of the time

Five levels of scaffolding led Boli to the top of the wall and the clean swept streets of the upper city. Here, nature strips were carefully groomed and neon-lights flashed atop carefully manicured shopfronts. Looking around, he was momentarily bewildered by the sheer contrast to ScumTown and its ramshackle decrepitude. He spied a park atop a nearby hill and decided that it would be the best place to wait and continue his reporting on whatever was about to happen. The streets were empty; Upper City folk didn’t need to rise so early in the day.

Boli struggled the last few hundred metres to sit on the park bench that faced ScumTown. From the look of it, few used this place; the wrought-iron seat was corroded but didn’t bear the flattening of something often used. Boli eased himself onto the bench and began fishing though his bag to set up his equipment.

It only took a few minutes. With practised ease, Boli connected his batteries to the tablet and then attached a secondary mic and head camera so that he could record anything he looked at. He watched the skies, noting the clouds advancing before the storm front.

Once connected to the internet, Boli clicked through logons and security protocols to reach the chat room. A list of handles and call signs scrolled past as he checked in, letting him know that today there were not only a few people online there were hundreds. Boli stared at the list of names in shock; he knew many of the participants but certainly not all. In all his time collaborating with other writers, he had not seen such a buzz of activity. If the situation were not so grim he would be overwhelmed with joy, as it was he simply realised that the situation was likely as bad as he feared it would be.

Within seconds of Boli taking his place, the cursor in the text box blinked.

“Boli? Are you safe?”

The handle identified the writer as Nonny, rather than speak and open a channel that everyone in the room could hear, Boli typed instead.

“Yes, it is me. I’m fine. What is happening?”

The cursor started to blink and a lengthy reply appeared soon after, Boli guessed Nonny had prepared the answer ahead of time.

“Word has spread and we are getting reports from dozens of writers both in Adelaide and across the world that there is more to what’s happening than just a single strike. Something is wrong with Greenworth, his wife has fled the city but he might not be aware yet. Jabber says she’s gone south. There’s some kind of experiment going on in the city too. Huli found out more about it, someone tried selling the data to RedDragon and they’re working on a mirror project, looking for military applications. There have been accidents.”

Boli tried to take the information dump in, tried to understand it all. He was a writer and never thought he’d need to deal with this level of complexity. Within his brain he realised that perhaps that was why he could deal with this level of complexity, he’d written tangled plots before, he just needed to separate each piece before finding out how they linked and then he could predict what was planned next.

“What should I do now?” Boli asked, “I’m watching the city.”

“Stay put.”

The reply wasn’t typed, it was spoken. A deep, sonorous voice that spoke of years and calm determination.

“Nonny?” asked Boli.


“I always thought you were a girl.”

There was a mirthless laugh from the other end.

“Well, I am, or I was, once. That isn’t important now though. What is important is we work together and help as many people as we can. Jeeves has managed to get word out and people are starting to leave the city. The attack isn’t due until dawn tomorrow morning but there’s been some conflicting information. It might come sooner.”

“Okay.” Breathed Boli, still surprised over Nonny’s identity reveal. “I’ll hang tight here.”

“Stay safe, I’ll continue to monitor. Record everything.”

Boli minimised the feed from the chat room and began recording the vista of ScumTown below the Upper City. The colour of dawn gave way to the ashen grey skies of morning and the empty space between the storm front and the cityscape of the Upper City began to fill with cloud. Tiny dots appeared in the sky far to the North, reflecting the morning light and twinkling like stars. Behind them Boli spied the faint smoky contrails that confirmed his fears.


His throat constricted as the projectiles moved closer, at this distance, he could hear no noise and if it weren’t for the rare clarity of the sky, Boli guessed he wouldn’t be able to see them at all. He directed the camera feed to observe and once placed he brought up the chat-feed once more.

Boli cleared his throat and spoke into the microphone.

“Hey, this is Boli. I’m in Adelaide and I’m looking at missiles coming towards the city. I am sure most of you already know but I’ve connected a feed. If you know any way to tell people to get out. Do it. If You’re in Adelaide, get out. Copy this feed, share it, and spread the word. The world needs to know what is happening here.”

A cacophony of well wishes, prayers and pleas washed out through the speakers, rendering individual words unintelligible. Boli tried to shut out the sounds as he became increasingly transfixed by the approaching missiles.

Movement. Boli turned his head to catch it on the feed.

In the Upper City and in ScumTown itself, tower domes fell away and air-strike countermeasures rose up like guardians. Hope surged in Boli’s heart as they began to fire at the fast moving missiles that targeted the Upper City, smashing them from the sky with lines of tracer bullets and misdirecting chaff shells. Of the dozens of missiles in the first wave not a single one managed to reach its target, every single one was destroyed, leaving behind only smoke and falling fragments.

Boli rose from his seat and pumped his fist in exuberance.

“Yes!” he shouted, “They stopped them.”

He took up his mic and spoke into the chat feed once more.

“The missiles, they’ve all been stopped. The city is safe. Greenworth stopped them all. Perhaps it was just a drill or something.”

The cursor flashed and Nonny sent a message.

“Look again.”

Boli’s breath caught in his throat, he looked into the sky once more. Dozens more glowing specks appeared near the horizon, glimmering hints of destruction yet to come.

“The towers will stop them.” Said Boli to himself, looking towards the defence turrets that still pointed north.

A pall of smoke now hung over both ScumTown and the Upper City and from where he was, Boli could see people frantically moving about, trying to find cover. He guessed it would still be another twenty or so minutes before the second wave hit so he calmed his nerves and panned his camera across the scene, magnifying this group of people or that as they rushed around.

“It’s chaos.” Boli whispered to himself.

With his video images travelling straight into the chat feed the activity online had only increased. Boli felt himself disassociate as he only vaguely paid attendtion to what other posters were saying.

-Block the signals
-Warn them
-Force countermeasures
-Save them

The orders, demands and pleas streamed on. He wasn’t a hacker, he couldn’t block anything, he couldn’t stop the missiles, he could only show the story of what was happening.

The video stuttered, struggling to deal with the upload demands of the software. Boli tried to adjust it to save the picture but it was hopeless. The video feed paused, started, paused again and then froze for long seconds before shutting off entirely.

The panicked calls from the chat room’s viewers grew louder.

-Fix it, fix it.
-Where’s the feed
-What’s happening, we can’t see.

Boli could viscerally feel the anxiety coming across the audio feed. Boli’s breath caught as he sat stunned, unable to think about what to do.

The cursor in the chat box blinked and Nonny sent a message.

“You’re a writer. Write.”

The message took almost a minute for Boli to comprehend properly as he stared at the screen, paralysed into inaction. Then, with a twitch of motion, Boli’s hands began to move.

Boli’s fingers moved across the tablet, he opened a document program. He began to write.

He wrote as he saw it, taking in the details of people, of buildings of the approach of the missiles. He added nuance to the sentences, bringing the words to life so that even if the feed was interrupted, the message was not. His eyes were the camera, his ears the mic and he wrote down every detail he could imagine as the doom of Adelaide drew close once more.

Boli’s breath shuddered once he could see the red-painted nose-cones of the missiles and he gasped when the defence silos wound back down across ScumTown, leaving the poor, the wretched and the dispossessed undefended.

Boli wrote as the warheads crashed into the ground across the vast tangle of slums, exploding into billowing plumes of chemical flame that spread through the shanty towns, creating wildfires.

Boli wrote as he watched the Scummers flee towards the safety of the Upper City, he wrote as they disappeared into the warren of sewers that burrowed beneath the slums, he wrote as he saw the flames catch the slow and the weak, burning the life from them until they lay as blackened corpses on the ground.

Boli wrote it all, sending an instant record into the ether, telling stories of last moments, of great escapes of selfishness and selflessness in equal number.

Boli wrote.

When the last missile had landed and as the fires spread far and wide, Boli wrote with tears streaming across his face, his body shaking but his fingers tapping away resolutely ignoring Boli’s own soul shattering grief.

The clouds that had come in from the sea reached across Adelaide and it began to rain.

Like a final mercy the rain, thick, greasy and cold slapped down across the burning ghettos and quashed the flames, the vengeful wrath of the missiles spent under the fury of a coastal storm.

Boli wrote what he saw, shielding his tablet with his shabby denim jacket, telling the stories of those Scummers who ventured outside to extinguish the smouldering remnants of the attack on the helpless.

With every line, Boli’s story spread across the globe, telling the people of Earth of what had occurred here in Adelaide, that the poor had been abandoned and left to die while the rich sat in silver towers and watched.

More movement drew Boli’s eye. In the ruined crater that had once been a SeaCorp lab-complex a figure appeared, climbing from a gaping hole in the wall. Its movements were jerky, unnatural. Within moments several others joined it and the group clambered through a smashed chainlink fence and into the smouldering slums. Boli watched them, writing down what he saw. Each of these figures wore smocks like patients in a hospital, each of their heads were shaved and none showed any semblance of care as they crashed across obstacles like drunken fools.

A survivor in soot stained clothes staggered from a collapsed house, she paused on the open street to look about at the devastation. The nearby mob of patients saw her and lurched into motion, screams of delight carrying faintly on the soot stained winds. The survivor watched as the mob closed in, holding hands up in supplication, the mob crashed into her, a frenzied chorus of killers that bludgeoned with fists and tore at her with teeth and nails. The woman disappeared beneath the pile as Boli recorded every last action with his words.

The mob stood up, bloody, invigorated and shambled away, leaving their victim’s tattered corpse behind.

Boli wrote on.

More dots appeared on the horizon.

Boli wrote on.

He would tell this story.

A Second Chance

Along cracked and weed choked banks, crumbling derelict houses paid mute tribute to the tortured flow of the crippled River Murray. Cicadas chirruped mindlessly in weary gums standing sentinel over the muddy shallows of a lagoon long dried to dust. Hot winds sent the dry grasses whispering and few things moved in the smothering heat.

Conspicuous in its difference was the unkempt oasis of a mudbrick cottage, fronted by an ancient cascading glory vine and almost hidden behind towering tussocks of spear-grass. While other dwellings had fallen down, the solid mudbrick had resisted the wrath of years, even during those times it lay abandoned, and now that it was a home once more it stood defiant and proud, a long untiring guardian of a river gasping for life.

Cerryn sat beneath the shelter of the vine’s red and orange leaves, the shade cooling the house as well as any air-conditioner one might find in the distant city. She drank water from an old plastic cup she’d brought with her here when she’d moved, years ago. Brown leathery fingers tapped tunelessly next to a faded plastic plate, on a faded wooden table that had been waiting for her the day she arrived, its solid timber frame as dependable as one could want.

Cerryn waited. She knew that soon she would know answers and that soon she’d need to go to work. She’d lived here for unknown years, marked only by a vague sense of changing seasons in a time when the seasons made little sense, as did much else in the world.

A young man moved around inside the cosy home, shuffling from the sink to the dining table, washing dishes in water carefully collected from the reluctant rains and stored in a cluster of rusting tanks behind the home. There was little to wash for the pair lived frugally and used their food and drink sparingly, to ensure they’d always be enough for tomorrow. The deliberate way in which the man moved spoke of a special care in his actions, a necessary purpose by which he liked to do things in a single defined way. At these times, Cerryn knew it was best to leave him, James, her son, alone.

She’d left the city because of him, no…for him, because his needs would not be catered to and his personality harshly judged by others. Here in isolation he could live life as he needed and Cerryn could live in peace.

Until today.

Cerryn had watched the lines being drawn across the sky, seen the spots that fell from the clouds and heard distant thunder as some terrible calamity had befallen the city she’d left. She’d watched the skies for hours seeing not one, not two, but three flights of the streaking missiles smash down over the hills, falling on the city and the miserable souls that still lived there.

That was a day ago and today she knew the first of the fleeing would arrive, if they’d survived at all. Like refugees had for millennia, they would follow the river, seeking its source or at least a way to escape, hoping it would lead to sanctuary or a new beginning. That was exactly how Cerryn had arrived here, cradling a crying six year old boy in her aching arms, carrying little more than some ragged clothing and her plastic dinner set in a cloth tied bundle.  

Cerryn watched the river. In times before she had come here it had been strong and deep, a majestic brown serpent of cool water winding half way across the continent. Its strength had been stolen, siphoned away to feed the insatiable need for resources upstream but it was the climate that broke it. Few rains fell to feed the parched banks and for much of the year the clay soils were baked hard, cracking under the gaze of a burning sun, the only relief from the heat being the roiling grey clouds that seemed empty of anything by thunder.

For the old woman and her son there was still enough to collect in buckets and tend to the hard root vegetables, tubers and tough skinned, tasteless melons that she grew along the muddy bank. She’d been waiting for this day for many years, her dreams telling her to prepare for the worst by doing her best to save people who’d driven her away themselves.

It was time. Cerryn spotted movement on the riverbank below. Two struggling, sweating people, a man and woman, threshed along in the mud, unable to find a path onto solid ground through the laughing reeds.

“Mother?” questioned James as Cerryn stood up in her chair and took her first step from the soft shade of the glory vines.

Cerryn held up her hand, urging James to quiet and began to walk, slowly at first and then with increasing speed towards the pair of refugees.

Their faces were red from exertion and stained with soot, the man was missing his shoes and the woman’s skirts were torn. Once their clothes would have placed them in an office, perhaps behind a nice desk in an air-conditioned room. Now they marked them simply as victims of a game they were too small to play themselves. A kernel of resentment for these people welled in Cerryn’s heart. Years before it was people like these that had ignored her pleas for help and denounced her son as an aberrant, sending her fleeing in the night to avoid his placement in a detention camp for the unconformable.

She stopped briefly, calming herself because now she had a chance to do the right thing and unlike those who’d abandoned her, Cerryn would not falter.

The woman had noticed Cerryn and was calling to the man, he stopped and stared in Cerryn, his expression a mixture of fear and hope, anguish and desire. Subconsciously, Cerryn’s hand stole to the knife she wore at her hip, checking that if things went bad she wouldn’t be a victim again.

“Stay there,” Cerryn called. “I will show you the way to shore.”

The man and woman said nothing but the woman nodded, her face flooding with hope.

“We can’t trust her.” Snarled the man, his voice carrying with the wind over the distance.

Cerryn pretended she didn’t hear, she had expected she wouldn’t be trusted. To these people she must look a savage, her faded clothes and dark tanned skin, her world-weary face obscured under her beaten straw hat. She looked every bit the wasteland dwelling slaver from the stories told to children in the church schools.

Following the slope down to the muddy bank, Cerryn pushed through the three metre tall reeds, finding the trail she used to fetch water for her plants. She emerged some ten metres behind where the woman and man still stood and called out once more, though gently.

“You can come through here, I have water.”

The fear remained on the couple’s face, though desperation won through, the woman nodded and took the first step towards Cerryn, the man following reluctantly. As they moved closed, Cerryn removed her hat, smiling at the travellers, the lines on her face furrowing her brow under its crown of long white hair.

Cerryn turned and stepped back into the reeds, holding aside the long waving fronds so the man and woman could join her. The woman reached out and pushed away the rushes, her hand flinching at it brushed gently against Cerryn’s. Cerryn didn’t react, instead she just continued to smile and led the way to the dry grass above the bank.

She walked slowly, showing the couple there was no hurry to arrive and nothing to flee from. As she neared her home she saw James lurking under the cover of the glory vine, shifting nervously from foot to foot as he watched the newcomers. Cerryn knew this would be difficult for James but she’d schooled him on what to expect as best she could. She’d always done her best for him.

The couple saw him too and they hesitated.

“It’s okay, he’s my son.” Explained Cerryn, although she knew that might not be enough.

She continued walking, reaching the porch before turning around, the man and woman still stood where they’d stopped, waiting on the obscured remains of a long unused roadway. The grasses swayed around their ankles and the cicadas continued their unrelenting song. Cerryn sat down in her chair and lifted her cup of water to her lips, she saw sweat dripping from the woman’s brow.

“It’s okay, I understand, but when you’re ready, come and have a drink.”

With his mother’s return, James shuffled back to the kitchen and its welcoming quiet. Again it was the woman who moved first. She and her companion slowly edged closer to the table under the glory vine their eyes flitting from one thing to another, looking for danger or threat.

Cerryn sipped her water and pointed to a bucket.

“It’s full. Rainwater from a fall two months ago. It’s been filtered through sand and left to sit. Help yourself.”

Cerryn waved her free hand towards a jumble of earthenware mugs she’d salvaged from a collapsing shack. The vessels would never win a contest for design but elegance wasn’t something that bothered Cerryn anymore.

“I’m Susan.” Said the woman, slowly holding out her hand.

“I’m Cerryn. He’s James.” Replied Cerryn with a gesture towards the house and the young man inside.

“My name’s James too.” Said Susan’s companion, quietly.

“It’s a good name,” smirked Cerryn, “You must be a good person.”

The woman, Susan, laughed nervously, travelling James only managed a half-chuckle that morphed into him clearing his throat.

“We’re from the city, from Adelaide.” He said, obviously ready to give Cerryn the exposition.

Cerryn stayed quiet, waiting to see if he’d say anything she hadn’t already guessed.

“There were bombs, or missiles…I’m not sure. We thought we’d be safe, SeaCorp always kept us safe, but the defences failed. There were fires…..” his voice trailed off as he looked behind him, towards the distant hills.

“We were on the bus home from work.” Said Susan. “I think maybe the driver had a heart attack, we crashed.”

“I was going to help him.” Interjected James.

“We both were,” continued Susan, “but…”

“But then they came.” Finished James.

Neither said anything for a moment so Cerryn decided to prompt them.

“Who came?”

“The crazies.” Susan whispered.

Cerryn knew that the fear on Susan’s face was more than just that of people fleeing the mundane. There was genuine horror there, and a wall of disbelief to protect the soul from coming to grips with something so horrible it defied rational though.

Cerryn had thought she would be in control in her first encounter with the refugees, she had calmed herself and prepared, thought and planned for the stories and horrors that would descend on her peace. She was not prepared to feel the emotion pouring from James and Susan as they stood under the glory vine of her mud brick home.

She poured herself some water, the cool liquid spilling into the cup as it had a thousand times before, droplets leaping as the water swirled around. She placed two of the earthenware cups beside her own and filled them to the brim, then handed one to James and one to Susan.

“What do you mean, Crazies?”

Cerryn had wanted to sound calm, reassuring and measured; he voice came out thin and strained. In the kitchen, James shuffled to a halt.

“They are possessed.” Breathed traveller James, “It’s as if their bodies have been stolen by fiends or devils.”

“Their eyes are dead.” Muttered Susan, her hand shaking as she lifted her cup to her lips and took a nervous sip.

“Like animals, they kill with their hands and teeth, they laugh when they’re killing and scream as they run.”

“It’s the end times.” Choked Susan. “We were warned.”

James nodded. He closed his eyes and shuddered.

Cerryn’s son appeared at the screen door, he stayed behind it, staring through the tattered flyscreen and observing the two refugees.

“This is James, my son.” Said Cerryn, trying to change the topic until she could understand exactly what was happening.

The two travellers looked but they didn’t seem to care. For them their horror was of much more import than a young man in ragged clothes.

“Mother, I finished the dishes.” He said.

Cerryn smiled at her son. “Thank you, James. Can you fix some of the food for dinner? Just like for us, except twice as much.”

James looked anxious, deviations from his plan were not welcomed but he knew that today was special, so he’d try his best. He left without another word and Cerryn waited until she heard him clattering plates before she spoke again.

“I thought it was a missile attack, but I didn’t know about these, crazies. Are they soldiers? From somewhere else?”

Susan choked back a sob; James shook his head.

“No, I don’t think they are. They were wearing clothes just like ours, some weren’t wearing anything at all; they weren’t like soldiers or guards. Our bus hit one when we were trying to get out, we thought it had been killed then it tried to get in through the windscreen, even with half its head caved in.”

When Cerryn had been a child, long before, she’d been fond of zombie movies always thinking that when the end of the world came the cities would be overrun by the walking dead. In the movies though, zombies died when they lost their brain. Despite her rising horror and the pulse that now hammered in her neck she found herself almost grinning at the absurdity of thinking zombies were real.

“I don’t know what they are, but I know that they aren’t the worst of what’s out there.” Croaked Susan. “I worked for SeaCorp, in the Tower and something happened upstairs during the attack. There were reports of murders, not one but dozens and then the crazies came. I think…I think this was planned.”

James scoffed, sure of himself again.

“No way, SeaCorp has control over the whole continent, they control half the world, why would they let something like this happen? Charles Greenworth might be a little bit eccentric but he’s a good man, like his father.”

Cerryn raised an eyebrow at that. She didn’t know Charles Greenworth but she’d lived in the city during the time of his father. Bryson Greenworth was a cancer on the face of decency. A man whose power had led him to indulge in the most hideous of hobbies and who had gotten away with every despicable thing as a result. She knew that despite his atrocities, Bryson had been seen as a messiah for many people. They’d cheered as he’d brought about the destruction of democracy and lauded him with praise as the last publicly owned services were taken over by his leviathan multi-national, SeaCorp. Charles had been his heir and was only just coming to maturity when Cerryn had been forced to leave, yet she knew an apple rarely fell far from the tree.

Susan was staring into her cup, James bristled at her insinuation that somehow this was Greenworth’s fault.

“Do you think there are many others? Like you?” Cerryn asked.

Susasn looked up at James whose face softened under her expression. He turned to Cerryn to answer.

“Yes, there will be. Even with the crazies there were hundreds who would have escaped, but I think we were among the first. If it hadn’t been for our driver….perhaps we could have gotten away… to Melbourne…I…I’m not sure.”

The screen door swung open and James emerged carrying a pair of large mismatched plates. Atop them were a mash of carrot and potato and a pile of boiled squash. Each plate was carefully sectioned into quarters so that each person had exactly the same amount. He placed the plates before his mother and looked at the ground. Cerryn reached out her hand, grasping her child’s gently, he gave his mother’s hand a light squeeze and waited. Cerryn served her son a quarter of the food, placing it on the worn plastic plate that was the companion to her cup. She handed it to him and without looking up he took it and retreated upstairs to eat.

Cerryn could feel her visitor’s eyes on James as he left and decided to answer the unspoken question.

“He’s autistic.”

Looks of sadness and pity flooded the couple’s faces and Cerryn felt anger once again.

“It doesn’t mean he’s disabled, he’s just particular about things and doesn’t take orders well. That’s all.”

Susan had the good grace to blush in embarrassment, James seemed to feel the need to speak.

“They could have put him in a special school, it would have been easier for you.”

Cerryn sighed in long controlled exasperation. James took the hint.

“I’m sorry.” He said, although he clearly had no idea what he was sorry about, so deep was his level of misunderstanding.

Cerryn looked out toward the river and saw figures struggling through the mud, there were dozens and in the distance, where the river mud became a hazy mirage, she saw hundreds. There would be much to do.

“You are the first to join me here,” said Cerryn. “You’re welcome to stay with us as long as you like, but you’ll need to help. If others are coming and you’re here, you’ll help them too.”

She used a spoon to dig in to her mash. James had done a good job, he was exacting in his methods.

“What do we…” began Susan.

Cerryn swallowed her mash and dug out another mouthful before answering.

“Be a decent person, don’t judge, do your best.” Cerryn said, “That’s all anyone ever needed to do.”

She swallowed, then stood to prepare for the flood of refugees on the river that no longer ran.

The Wyrm in Wait Part 3

Jarek said nothing as he studied the man’s face. There was no fear, just determination. His complexion didn’t match the hivers Jarek had met, he was not of this world.

Jarek nodded and the man spoke again.

“I need to get back into the hive.”

Jarek frowned at the madness, the hive was dying.


The man’s brow furrowed and his lips tightened. Annoyance.

“Not your business, now let’s go.”

Jarek cocked his head.

“No, the hive is dangerous. If you wish me to risk my life, you tell me. This is fair.”

Jarek continued to study the survivor’s face, searching for answers in skin and tissue.

There, a twitch. The man was not as controlled as he wished to be, his confidence was not unbroken and that was something, if necessary, that Jarek could manipulate.

“I am a servant of the Emperor, if you are faithful, you will do as I command for the good of the Imperium.”

Jarek nodded slowly, allowing the survivor to believe that his order was effective. Jarek loved the Emperor, but he was no lickspittle hive-dweller slave.

“Lead me there, now.” Ordered the man. Pointing the way with the pistol.

Jarek nodded once more and turned, beginning the long journey to Hyperia. He would find out more and then decide whether to kill this arrogant visitor to the wastes or help him.

Jarek walked in silence and the survivor offered no conversation. He followed Jarek carefully as the wasteland warrior used the meagre cover of outcroppings to keep his profile low against the horizon. As Jarek walked he would close his eyes and concentrate on listening to the desert’s song, straining to hear the sounds that denoted a movement or the presence of hidden predators.

Jarek only paused once to rest a moment and collect his thoughts. By now his absence would be noted by his people and there was no doubt that other warriors would be searching for him. He made sure to leave signs of his passing, too small for any outsider to notice but clear as the noon-day sun to anyone of his tribe.

The night was dying when Jarek heard the sounds.

Engines, probably ork, approaching from behind.

“We need to hide.” He signed and then remembered the survivor would not understand. He repeated himself in the hive tongue.

The survivor frowned and looked about, obviously seeing nothing.

“There’s no need, we are wasting time.”

Jarek ignored the black clad man and sunk to the ground, pushed sand out around himself to create a shallow hole in which he lay down before scooping sand back across his robes.

“Hide or die.” He whispered, then submerged his face below the earth.

The survivor looked ready to protest and then as the wind shifted, he too heard the approaching vehicles. Diving to the ground he began digging furiously, scooping handfuls of the gritty soil out and flinging them behind him.

The engines were closer now and Jarek knew that against the dim glow of the sunrise the crash survivor’s silhouette would be visible to anyone looking from the West. He stayed calm, trusting his own camouflage would keep him safe, even if his companion wasn’t.

Roaring engines screamed in the dawn air and sand exploded nearby as the ork buggy riders began blasting away at the exposed human. The survivor dove to avoid further gunfire, rolling and then rising into a sprint. He dove once more into cover behind a rocky outcrop and drew his pistol, taking aim at his enemy.

Two buggies, each crewed by a pair of orks, bludgeoned their way across the outcroppings, the drivers whooped and the gunners cheered as they began to circle their prey. A spiked wheel passed centimetres from Jarek but he didn’t flinch, knowing the xenos were not aware of his presence.

The survivor began firing from cover, the powerful pistol blasting a chunk from a buggy’s gunmount. The orks on-board jeered and turned the rattling vehicle to run the human down. The orks on the second buggy also turned; hoping to steal a kill.

Once the orks passed, Jarek rose from the sand and fluidly aimed his autogun at the oblivious greenskins. His first shot smacked into the driver of the second buggy’s head and the following burst stitched a line of holes across the gunner’s back. The slug stunned the driver and the ramshackle cart careened into an outcropping too large to crash through. The chassis buckled and split, sending the gunner to smash into the rocks and crushing the driver in the wreckage.

The orks in the first buggy had their attention dragged away from the survivor by the spectacle. He made his move. Kneeling down he let fly with a trio of shots at the ork buggy’s wheels. The bolts exploded and the buggy’s axle collapsed, sending the xenos skidding around to a halt. Without pause the survivor charged the confused greenskins, executing the gunner with a shot to the temple and then shooting the driver several times in the back of the neck.

As the engines of the two buggies guttered quietly, Jarek remained with his autogun aimed at the remaining ork gunner laying amidst the rocks. It struggled to its feet and although unarmed, Jarek knew it was still deadly.

It staggered forward, growling but then halted suddenly. The survivor walked confidently toward it, hand outstretched, his face contorted in a snarl. The ork dropped to its knees and placed its hands on the sand. Drool slithered from its open maw and it shook its head slowly from side to side. The survivor now stood over it, hand almost touching the xenos’ neck. He swung the pistol around and delivered a single shot to the ork’s skull, splattering the sands and himself with brain fluid and bone fragments. It took a moment to collapse and with its death, the desert returned to silence.

Jarek kept the black clad man in his sights, deciding whether to end his life right there. But no, the man had asked for aid and custom dictated that Jarek the Desert Wyrm, must provide.

The Wyrm in Wait Part 2

Usually the night would be quiet but tonight, as it had been for many months, the night rumbled with the sounds of distant thunder.

Far to the East, flashes of light coloured the haze that surrounded the hive towers of the Hyperia Hive sprawl, though the sky above was even darker than it should be. The fighting seemed to have grown even more desperate though Jarek did not know why. The hive had always been there, a place for the city folk and the machine men of the Mechanicum. When the orks had come and attacked the Desert Wyrms had laughed at the thought it could ever fall. Now, it did not seem impossible.

Wrapping his robes around himself tightly, Jarek sat down and gazed at the distant battle. He wondered what would become of his people if the hive did fall to the orks, or to whatever fought there now. He wasn’t sure but it seemed like much of the fighting was not just around the city but within it. the warrior calmed himself by stroking his scaled tunic and closing his eyes to listen to the winds. He heard the far off roar of ork trukks, the faint roar of shelling and the piercing cry of alien weaponry. Closer he sensed the movement of the desert’s nocturnal hunters which even now would be moving toward him, hoping to find an easy meal. Of course, by the time the rad-scorpions, or whatever they were, arrived, Jarek would have moved on.

He stood and began to stride North, deciding to prowl the wastes himself and practice his fieldcraft. He moved swiftly, halfway between a run and a slink. He stayed stooped so that his silhouette would not be overly noticeable over the scattered outcroppings of stone and tussocks of wire-weed. He listened as he scurried from one outcropping to the next, not trusting his eyes in the gloom.

It was over an hour when he smelt it, the reek of promethium and the sharp tang of scorched metal and burnt grease. It came from somewhere to the West, further out into the desert wastes and lacked the musty filth smell of orks. It could, with luck, be something to scavenge, to provide the Wyrms with resources and aid the constant struggle for survival. Though usually he would only approach as part of a team, Jarek knew that anything out here would be found in the morning by the marauding greenskin scum, so had to be checked immediately.

He touched his jerkin once more for luck and hurried towards the smell, his eyes narrowed against the night’s biting winds.

The wastelands were barren to the uninitiated, but they were not simple flat plains. The distance over which they lay bent perspective and many outsiders did not know how easy it was to hide something relatively large. Depressions were common and some were metres deep, providing concealment from anything hunting at ground level, though offering nothing to hide from predators in the skies. Jarek guessed that whatever he was moving towards lay in one of the depressions as he couldn’t see it and he was sure he smelt fire. The gloom of the night and the light, ever-present haze hid any smoke that might be rising.

He stopped again and closed his eyes, this time concentrating not on his nose but his ears, he could hear it above the wind and the increasingly distant sounds of war, the faint crackling of flames as they struggled against the push of the night air.

Jarek fell into a crouch and shuffled carefully forward, taking great care to move when the gusts of wind were strongest and covered the muffled sound of his passage. After long minutes of patiently placing one cloth wrapped foot in front of the other he saw a glow against an outcropping and noticed the edge of a depression in the ground. He could clearly hear the crackling of fire now and the barking of a suppressed cough. It was not an ork, that much was clear. Another twenty metres and Jarek spied it; a downed aircraft of some type, the sort the warriors would sometimes see flying high across the wastelands. This one looked damaged. Its wings holed and burnt, its canopy cracked and its landing gears collapsed. Fire licked the ground around it and the fuselage was melted in several places. A boxy cargo hold lay open, a rear ramp twisted off and laying metres away.

Although Jarek was no expert in such things, it looked as though the craft had landed heavily, perhaps as a result of its damage. Whetever it was carrying might have been important but he had no way of knowing if there were survivors. The figure slumped in the cockpit was certainly dead though, the amount of blood and brains across the interior was proof of that.

Jarek hoisted his autogun and clicked off the safety. He skirted around the edge of the depression, looking for evidence of survivors, footprints, blood, or bodies.

There, metres away from the craft itself, half-hidden under an outcropping was the toe of a boot. Not a cloth wrapped one, like those Jarek wore, but a polished boot from a hiver or perhaps one of the Astra Militarium. Thinking it could be a trap, Jarek moved closer, closing his eyes briefly to listen to the night.


He opened his eyes to find himself looking down the barrel of a large bore pistol. The bearer staring at the desert warrior with grim determination and narrowed eyes.

Jarek stared back impassively. He could not understand how he had not heard anything.

“Drop it.” ordered the man in low gothic. Jarek did so with numb fingers, letting the autogun fall to the sand, utterly unable to resist the compulsion in the survivor’s voice.

“Who are you?”

“I am Jarek, warrior of the Desert Wyrms.”

“What are you doing here?”

“Looking for this.” Jarek nodded towards the crashed lander. He felt himself speaking without conscious effort, every word being dragged from his mind and out through his mouth. A pain welled behind his eyes.

“Are you loyal to the God Emperor?” This last question was spoken with a sense of urgency, with need.

“Yes.” Was Jarek’s simple reply.

The pistol was lowered and the pain faded from Jarek’s head. He finally had a chance to take in the survivor’s features. A hard edged, world-weary face, pale but streaked with soot and blood. A shaved head and pained, desperate eyes. The survivor wore a black jumpsuit without device or logo and around his hips sat a utility belt of pouches as well as a pair of sheaves for knives. Jarek took a breath, a deep gulping breath like it was his first in an age. The survivor stepped back and regarded the nomad.

“I need your help.” He said.

The Wyrm in Wait.

With the screaming rattle of ork engines echoing in his head, Jarrak dove into the foxhole once more. His auto gun clattered against makeshift armour as he crouched low and fearfully glanced upward.

The belly of some ramshackle buggy briefly hid the sky from view as it sped over Jarrak’s hiding place, the coughing laugh of its many guns mocking him for his cowardice. Jarrak’s shame reddened his face but only strengthened his resolve. He knew he was no hero like the soldiers of the Astra Militarium, he was no space marine clad in burnished plate. Jarrak was nothing more than a scavenger fighting to survive in the wastelands of Vigilus against the swarms of greenskins that now called the deserts home.

Jarak fought them as best he could. Despite his position on the fringes of the Imperium, he was loyal to the God Emperor, the Water Bringer and the Dawn Spear who killed the tribe’s enemies with bolts of lightning from the reddened skies. Jarak would fight to the last.

More buggies could be heard, the cacophony of their guns firing almost overshadowing the stupid laughter of the orks on-board. Jarak rose up and peeked from the foxhole, swiftly bringing his autogun to bear on a distant target. He let fly with a short burst and was rewarded by the sight of an ork being knocked from the roof of a buggy where it had been operating some oversized spear gun. It rose to its feet but was crushed under the spiked wheels of an ork trukk that had been pursuing the buggy for sport. The death drew gales of laughter from the other orks who had probably not even heard the sound suppressed autogun fire at all. Jarrak crouched back down and smiled under his cowl. His pack had been travelling in this part of the wasteland for almost ten days now, picking off ork stragglers, sabotaging their fuel while they camped in stinking temporary settlements and doing their best to whittle down numbers without being seen. Jarrak knew that the hive cities were under attack and that these small efforts meant almost nothing, but by the Emperor, he would not succumb to hopelessness or despair.

The buggies and trukks sped out of sight to the west, leaving great clouds of dust to obscure their passage, the stink of crudely processed promethium hung in the air long afterwards. Several minutes later, Jarrak emerged from his foxhole and squatted on the wasteland plain. His ochre robes blended perfectly with the sands, making him appear as nothing more than another small outcropping of stone. He turned his head slowly, avoiding sudden movements and then picked out other outcroppings he knew were nomads like himself. His tribe, the Desert Wyrms, were named after the long, legless reptiles that attacked from holes in the dunes, snatching unwary travellers with swift strikes and dragging them beneath the burning sands to choke the life from them. Jarrak pushed his hands underneath his robes to caress the scaled jerkin made from the wyrm he had killed only a year past, the successful hunt gaining him a place as a man in the tribe. He smiled in pride and then touched the scars on his neck the creature had given him. It had been a good fight.

One of the outcroppings shifted form and from underneath the sand covered robes a hand emerged, waving swiftly to signal the Desert Wyrms would move, today’s hunt was over.

The caverns were quiet despite holding several hundred members of the Desert Wyrms’ tribe. The enforced silence was customary to their people and especially important now that war had come to Vigilus. Most of the time the people communicated in sign, using one hand to gesture while the other held a small lumen close to the body, allowing light to spill only where needed. The susurrus of shifting feed and the occasional murmured word would be unlikely to be audible more than metres away and certainly not by the orks that might be polluting the sands with their presence above but the tribe did not take unnecessary risks, it was not their way.

Jarak squatted in the darkness, chewing lizard jerky and contemplating the day. As an unmarried man, his diet was limited to rations, though if he were paired he would cook and take the better share. Facing him were two of his hunter-mates, Okka and Gern. Jarak could see the sharp outline of Okka’s chin and the dusky skin of her left cheek from the glow of her lumen pendant but Gern’s features were hidden, his own lumen nestled under folds of his cloak.

“It was a good hunt.” Jarak signed.

“Yes, scum died.” Okka signed back. Gern said nothing and Jarak decided to leave the conversation be. He was not offended by the lack of communication, the Desert Wyrms spoke little unless necessary and spent long hours in silent contemplation of what they had done or seen.

Jarek stood and nodded a farewell to his two friends, which both returned and then he made his way to where the cavern met the winding labrynth of tunnels that led to the surface.

The guard there nodded a greeting but didn’t try to prevent Jarek’s passage. Hunters were allowed to come and go as they pleased, embodied with the trust that they would not provide enemies or predators to follow them back to the camp under any circumstances. Jarek took his responsibilities seriously.

The journey through the tunnels was undertaken silently. The cloth binding around Jarek’s hide boots muffled the noise of his steps and as a hunter he moved with a natural stealth. As he arrived at the stone plate that provided passage to the surface he listened carefully for noises denoting movement above and then pressed his cheek to the stone walls to feel for vibrations.

There was nothing.

Jarek pushed aside the stone and stepped into the world above.

Storm Front


With the wind whipping around him and grit lashing his exposed skin, Kyan hurried through the twisted debris of Brisbane.

Much of the city was in ruins and was now a tangled labyrinth of abandoned housing and swirling refuse.

Kyan tried to avoid moving through the parts of the city that were flooded, the depth of the muddy water was often deceptive and many others had drowned when they’d become entangled in snares and dragged under by the flood’s current.

In a week the waters might recede, leaving a stinking morass of disease soaked mud and detritus covering the lower ground. Kyan would be among those picking through the chaos to find things worth saving.

For now though, he continued to move. The waters themselves were dangerous enough but the approaching storm was a more serious threat. The shelter of the Pile was a good fifteen minutes away and Kyan cursed himself for loitering too long at the swollen banks of the river.

He’d been fishing, hoping that he could catch a feed for his family but once again he’d be going home empty handed. The increasing instability in water quality meant that the fish stocks had dropped and it was a rarity to catch enough to feed a family, let alone excess to sell. With the storm season approaching things looked grim and Kyan had his doubts that all of the people who called the Pile home would make it. Nevertheless, he’d do his best and try to make sure it wasn’t his family that mourned the loss of one of their own.

A tree had fallen ahead. Kyan guessed it would have been at least a hundred and twenty years old but even its strength had been undone by the constantly changing weather. Scorched, then soaked and then battered by winds it had at last succumbed and now its bulk served only to block Kyan’s passage to safety. The fisherman looked about, trying to decide whether to climb over the fallen giant or find another way. The main body of the trunk was laying across the road and flood waters lapped against it as if it were some impromptu dam. Despite its great size the tree rolled slowly from side to side, buoyed by the water’s passage. Grimmacing, Kyan decided to just go around, even if it meant a longer journey.

He turned from the wind to wipe his face clear of the muddy grit that had begun to cake his face. The safety goggles he wore protected his eyes but he needed to clean them in order to see properly. The hem of Kyan’s long-coat flapped wildly as the wind increased and the howling of it between the buildings grew in intensity.

Kyan moved on.

Every step now was becoming an effort. Kyan’s fishing rod was pushed around by the blustery force of the nearing storm and the esky he held in his other hand banged against his leg. He was caught off balance and stumbled for a moment before catching himself and moving on.

Rain began to fall. Fat drops of oily filth that would never be fit for drinking splattered around Kyan and tapped on his head and shoulders. The rain ran into his beard and as always began to itch at the skin beneath. Kyan was faced with a  serious decision, he could seek shelter from the rain now and avoid the unpleasant skin conditions it caused, or continue on and reach the Pile before it got worse.

He decided on the latter, Gemma would be worried if he was away overly long and the last thing he needed was her leaving the safety of the Pile to try and find him.

Despite the wind and rain, Kyan was sweating under his coat. The air was perpetually hot these days and the general humidity siphoned a person’s strength as they moved around. The blasts of wind reduced the effects but the stinging was just as unwelcome.

Kyan’s picked his way around the edge of the fallen tree and climbed onto the sagging porch of an abandoned home. The front door banged noisily on its hinges and Kyan peered inside, looking down the long central corridor. He noted the back door was also loose and the floor looked stable enough so he slid inside and breathed a sigh of relief at the temporary reprieve from the elements. He didn’t spend much time thinking about staying in the dilapidated home though, with winds this strong there was no telling if parts of the roof or wall could collapse, trapping him or killing him outright.

The backdoor led to a large yard, overgrown with couch grass and a tangle of passionfruit vines. The plant held no fruit though, the weather was so changeable that a lot of food bearing vegetation had no idea when to flower and even if it did there weren’t enough insects to pollinate them effectively.

The Pile had a few hives, kept safe beneath reinforced covers, a precious resource that the residents guarded fiercely. Three times the hives had been raided by other settlements but now they had guards every hour of the day. Even now with a storm on the verge of laying waste to the area, someone would be standing near the sturdy boxes armed with a rifle or shotgun.

The back fence had collapsed, the corrugated iron rusted into uselessness. Kyan stepped across the remains and continued home.

The rain fell harder and Kyan’s caution intensified. He kept an eye out for wind-blown branches or shards of broken glass, he’d been injured by flying debris before and wasn’t keen to repeat the experience. It wasn’t so much the cuts and grazes, it was the chance of infection. Too many people died from sepsis and the few antibiotics the people of the Pile had were often ineffective.

He knew he was close to home and he was thankful. Ahead he could see the wide open area that marked the reclaimed ground around the Pile and further ahead the tangled outline of the Pile itself. The rain pelted down now and it was hard for Kyan to hear his own laboured breathing over the wind. He leaned into his stride, keeping his head low and trying to hold the esky and fishing rod close to his body.

As if sensing his desperation the wind snagged the rod and dragged it around, twisting it from Kyan’s grip ad tearing it away. It flew several metres through the air before clattering to the ground and scooting across a section of broken bitumen. Kyan stumbled after it, terrified of losing the valuable tool.

In his haste he clipped an outcropping of carpark with his worn boot and tumbled onto the ground, the esky bounced open and Kyan’s carefully saved bait spilled everywhere, scattering in the wind’s selfish grasp.

His hand grasped the end of the rod and he dragged it back close while trying to regain control of the esky. His knees were bleeding and he had a nasty graze on his wrist where he’d stretched out his arm but he had his tools.

The rain continued to beat down, now having fallen on the ground, Kyan’s inner clothing was saturated and he’d need to change soon. He stood unsteadily, still fighting the force of the elements and turned to face the pile through the haze of rain.

Step by step he struggled closer, the Pile’s tumbled outer walls looming massive now. Once within their encircling embrace the wind would fade and Kyan would only need to deal with the rain for minutes more.

Tangled middens of warped and twisted bench seats lay around the place, once used to seat spectators at sporting games, now they were unnecessary in a city where every day’s survival was a struggle. The tunnel leading to the depths of the community hold was only a hundred metres or less away, its darkness a welcome escape from the glaring torment of radiation soaked daylight. Kyan almost collapsed as he finally made it inside, he wriggled out of his coat and turned around to stare at the storm’s rage. It was a bad one, the rain fell in thick, roaring sheets and bits of trash cut through the deluge. Kyan couldn’t see further than a few dozen metres now and he gasped for breath. The wounds on his knees and wrist burned as the remnants of the rain ate away at the vulnerable exposed skin and flesh. He rubbed himself dry and sat down, looking at the faded sign by the door and reading it aloud.

“Welcome to The Gabba”.

Kyan heard footsteps and voices, no doubt someone coming to check who had arrived and to bring in his catch of fish. Not that there was any.

There was no food for tomorrow, but in the morning he’d try again. He had to.

What other choice did he have?


A Very Bodgie Christmas


“It’s the economy, stupid.”

That’s what he’d been told when he asked why Santa’s Workshop Industries was relocating from the North Pole here, to Snotsville.

Bodgie wasn’t the sort of goblin to look a gift mole in the mouth but he’d initially been skeptical that a big multi-national like SWI would want to shift toy production from their slick digs at the top of the world to the cesspit of Snotsville; a population center where the sign at the town limits didn’t say welcome because some nasty guttersnipe had stolen it and used it for kindling.  Yes, Snotsville was a wretched hive of scum and villainy, where even the reputation was stolen without permission; where life expectancy was measured in weeks rather than years and where the measure of success was not being eaten by a passing ogre or crushed under a giant’s butt.

But there could be worse places, perhaps; and Bodgie the goblin wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Of course as a goblin and not a smart one at that he didn’t think he could live anywhere else. Goblins weren’t generally sought as neighbors.

Even if he held the imagination required to think of something besides stealing from his friends or shirking work; he certainly didn’t have the courage to do something as outrageously worthwhile as move or perhaps finish primary school, or shower.

However, as fate would have it the chronically disengaged, uneducated and unemployed population of Snotsville had blundered its way into a bit of luck and the modern world had come calling to a place where progress had long ago left, turned off the light and bolted shut the door.

It was a cold, early December day when the trucks had rolled in to town, gathering a crowd of nose picking grots and grotlings to see what was happening, Bodgie had been amongst the noisy gaggle that listened to the speeches about jobs, growth and prosperity; a new age that promised to lift Snotsville out from its perpetual nosedive into economical oblivion.

Bodgie had been skeptical but the flashy marketing campaign run by the elf girls in their little skirts and tight tights had sold him, not that he’d tell the missus that; if he had a chance to perve on them at work while shirking his responsibilities then he’d sign up.

How hard could it be?

“Don’t tell me you’re going to make a smart decision for once in your life you pathetic lay about.” The missus had said in what was as close to a compliment as Bodgie could expect. “The gods know you’ve been about as useful to me and your whelps as nappies on a flatulent troll!”

He’d just nodded patiently until her diatribe had petered out and she’d directed her noisome attention to the screaming dozen or so filthy whelps that ran riot around Bodgies burrow home.

In any case he’d applied for the job. Him and fifty thousand other out of work hopefuls who had thought that perhaps the coming of the New World to the old had signaled some sort of hope for a better future; the marketing campaign with those elves in their tight tights certainly hadn’t done any harm to the general feeling of enthusiasm, or dampened the goblin men’s intent to be away from their burrows and their perpetually irritable spouses.

Bodgie remembered the initial forum where a particularly buxom elf had stood in front of an audience of thousands and smoothly run through how Santa’s Workshop Industries had transformed from an idea in a garage to the global juggernaut that it was today. A wall to wall screen had delivered a montage of images ranging from a fat bearded man making wooden toys in a snowed in garden shed to a corporate signed factory belching forth an unending line of trucks carrying the latest in children’s gifts to stores across the world, to showing artists depictions of a group of happy, smiling goblin workers sitting in comfy chairs and sketching out ideas for the Next Big Thing™.

He’d certainly been excited then, although when he’d sat the test he’d been confused at what all the squiggles and lines on the page meant, after all; goblins didn’t read; paper was something you wiped your behind with and only when a squirrel or owl chick wasn’t available.

Despite the odds being stacked against him though, he’d got the job, or at least a job. Instead of being posted to a position in a nice office with his own laptop and worm dispenser he’d been directed to a large, grimy warehouse with several thousand other goblins and sat down behind a splintered plank of wood that; he was informed, was his personal workspace.

Well, it was still better than cleaning muck of an ogre’s butt-hole and times were tough.

He sniffed a particularly viscous dribble of snot back up his nostril before it could complete its molasses slow pilgrimage to the floor. Nice one.

The missus was still relatively happy and even seemed relieved that her mate would still be suffering some level of deprivation rather than living the highlife while she stayed at home with their noxious spawn. Her pleasure was obvious to the point that she hadn’t boxed him over the head for at least an hour after he gave her the news and instead had bragged to the goblins down the hall that finally Bodgie was doing something worthwhile.

Bodgie guessed that was a fringe benefit, of a sort.

The work itself was interesting enough at the beginning. Goblins didn’t usually produce much beyond pointed sticks and now they were putting together circuits and wizardry of the type you only got stabbed with by magicians or sorcerers. He’d felt pretty good about up skilling himself but the thrill of being expected to produce twenty five yPhones minimum per day certainly wore thin after a couple of weeks.

Bodgie’s thin goblin arms ached and the minimal light in the warehouse had begun to make even a goblin squint in concentration. You certainly didn’t want to get it wrong; Fartbreath had mixed the wrong wires on one of the thingywhatsits he was making and blown himself across the room in three parts, Gobrot had thought he’d be sneaky and just fixed the empty cases together, hoping to get a bonus for working fast. The elves in tight tights had not seemed so nice when they came down and publicly whipped poor Gobrot with lengths of copper wire; they actually seemed to take a perverse glee in it although Bodgie couldn’t understand what they would have against goblins, besides them being untrustworthy, squealing, lying little thieves of course.

“Think of the pay-packet.” The goblin muttered to himself, adding to the self-reflection with a pointed investigation of his nasal cavity. After a week of eighteen hour days he had brought home at least five dollars and fifteen cents, which for a goblin he was told was an awful lot.

Naturally Bodgie wasn’t able to count but he trusted that the brass button and three mole droppings the elves gave him was actually money of a kind, he wasn’t sure; finance wasn’t his strong point, it was certainly better pay than a slap in the face with a wet skunk.

The shift siren, rang out; signaling it was time to go home to a well-earned rest. Bodgie put down his half made yPhone and stood up, his hunched back crackling in protest.

“Another day, another dollar.” Remarked Snozgrot cordially as he moved past Bodgie, wiping his nose on another passing goblin sneakily; Bodgie admired the snail trail left behind before replying.

“Yep, well at least while I’m here the wife isn’t giving me grief.” He snickered and the pair of workers shared a conspiratorial laugh.

“Looking forward to the holidays?” asked Snozgrot.

“Yeah, nah; you know.” Began Bodgie, “One gobbos’ holiday is another gobbos’ thingy.”

Snoz nodded at the sage remark. “You’ve got a way of putting whatsits so I know exactly what you’re talking about.”

Bodgie grinned in approval. “Well, them’s the benefits of edumacashun. I tell the runts that if they study hard and things, then great things await them.”

“I didn’t think you finished school.” Quipped Snozgrot.

“Nah, I didn’t but I stole a book once, I might have picked something up by accident.” Grinned Bodgie.

“You’re a good dad, Bodge” chittered Snozgrot.

“Yeah, I know.” Replied Bodgie, completely oblivious to the sarcasm of his co-worker.

The goblins scampered towards the press at the door, eager to get out. An elf in particularly tight tights watched the gibbering throng from atop a platform, sneering at her charges bickering and poking each other as they left.

Bodgie had to admit, she was the prettiest thing he’d ever seen. The haughty stare, the pointed ears and long auburn hair, even the little red bodice she wore made him all tingly inside.

Not that he’d ever admit that in front of another goblin, the snitches would quickly tell the missus and Bodgie could expect a hammering from his much larger partner. Still, he couldn’t help himself but favor her with a wink and a grin as he passed by her.

She scowled at him with all the warmth of a polar storm.

‘Oh yeah, she likes me for sure.” Bodgie tittered to himself as he stepped into the open air.


It was raining.

Not that rain was unusual for Snotsville, it was just that it was raining giant pee.

Around the town, standing on the slopes of the surrounding mountains were the giants of the Rockbiter tribe, two dozen of the colossal creatures bellowing with gales of big, stupid laughter as they showered the goblin settlement with stinking yellow urine, a weekend tradition for them.

“I guess that means its Friday then.” Muttered Snozgrot, his wormy tongue licking the putrid liquid from his face.

“Yep.” Growled Bodgie and he grimly set off towards home without another word.

The walk home was uneventful besides the splattering of pee in yellow crossing streams above him, Bodgie only got bitten once by a passing ferret which for him was almost a record; he was sure the slinky critters sought him out just so they could nip at his legs and chase him from one end of the town to the other as he howled in pain and frustration.

Perhaps the weekend wouldn’t be so bad after all.

As he stepped through the door into a choking cloud of acrid cooking smoke, he knew it was going to be one of those weekends.

Immediately he was accosted by a pair of his runts, screaming hideously as they attempted to bite and claw at one another.

He tried to calm the two before their antics attracted any unwanted attention.

“Bodgie?” yelled the missus from the kitchen. “Get your useless hide doing something and control your whelps.”

Right on cue then. He’d better try to manage them.

To be truthful Bodgie wasn’t even sure they were his whelps, they looked distinctly different to him with their particularly bat-like ears and grey green hide, Bodgie was sure his was a much nicer forest green; although their color could be a throwback to cousin Newtgut’s side; perhaps they were Newtgut’s entirely, Bodgie wouldn’t put it past the sneaky git, couldn’t trust his mother’s side of the family, or was it his father’s? Goblin lineage was often difficult to keep track of.

He slapped the closest whelp across the head, “Ugh” Bodgie sighed as the whelp’s giggle became a klaxon loud wail of utter anguish and a clatter of saucepans announced the missus’ intervention.

She hove into view like a bear lumbering out from hibernation; a grotesque quivering lump of belly fat and sagging, sweaty flesh topped by a head like a smashed cabbage. A tobacco pipe stuck out from a corner of her snuggle toothed maw, jiggling around like an oar in a row boat.

“What’d you do to the kids?” She demanded, looming over the much smaller Bodgie and assaulting him with the full stench of unbrushed teeth and a fondness for onions.

“I’m sorry my darling.” Sniveled Bodgie, attempting his most obsequious cringe.

“Did you get paid today? Did you bring me my money?” hissed the missus, her belly pushing Bodgie back towards the burrow door.

“Next week, precious; I get paid every month.” Bodgie said, smiling weakly as he risked a glance at his greatest oppressor.

“You said that last week you maggot riding dwarf fondler.” Roared the Missus. Bodgie began to shake and it wasn’t just an act, she genuinely terrified him and especially when she expected to be getting her grubby hands on his hard earned cash.

Bodgie knew he hadn’t said he’d get paid today but it was pointless arguing with she who must be obeyed. Nonetheless it niggled him that she would be bragging about how cowed he was down at the Country Goblin Women’s Association tomorrow and he could expect a chorus of gibes and giggles at his expense at work on Monday.

“I know my princess.” He sniveled instead. “I’m a stupid goblin and I don’t deserve you.”

That seemed to mollify the enormous monster, she pushed his head down and turned, breaking wind towards his face. The whelps clustered around her ankles shrieked in delight at his humiliation and scampered away as she batted them this way and that with kicks from her great flat feet.

Bodgie sighed again and made his way to the lounge room, turning on the idiot box; since there wasn’t any power in the burrow nothing happened but he liked to think that just having the contraption made him somehow better than his fellow goblins.

But even staring at the black screen couldn’t block out the caterwauling of his many offspring and on a Friday after a long work week, a goblin needed some peace.

“Perhaps a spot of fishing.” Bodgie said to himself, trying to block out the continuous racket of the whelps hideous wailing in the background.

It took all of three seconds or so of deliberations before he decided that one bad idea was as good as another and since he was always short on ideas he may as well go with the first one.

Fishing it was then.

He didn’t bother telling his missus where he would going, she’d only take the opportunity to call him a lazy loafer and box him around the ears so he quietly slipped out the burrow door and scampered through the now muddy streets of Snotsville to where he kept his fishing pole hidden.

He passed Snozgrot’s missus and a horde of her whelps as he made his way.

“Lovely day, Mrs. Snozgrot. Good the rain has stopped.”

“Go die in a fire.” Replied the warbling lump of fat and gristle as she swayed left and right along the footpath.

Bodgie grinned inwardly at her warmth. “Still go it Bodgie my boy.” He whispered and held himself a little straighter, which meant his knuckles only brushed the ground rather than dragging furrows in it.

He found the sewerage pit where he had hidden his fishing pole; he’d learned not to keep it at home as the missus knew full well that a long, whippy pole made a perfect lash with which to beat annoying spouses. He checked his pockets for bait, the half-eaten sausages and attendant maggots would do fine down at the creek.

Bodgie began to feel happier straight away. He wasn’t at home or work and the chances of him being hit, beaten or bitten had decreased dramatically as a result; life was good.

The trip down to the creek proved uneventful, the streets were relatively empty but for the soft echoes of domestic violence issuing from burrow mouths and the occasional passing ogre carrying bags of manure down the street in preparation for cooking the Christmas feast.

Bodgie reached the creek and unlimbered his pole in readiness; the muddy brown water bubbled around piles of discarded trash and cascaded over the miniature waterfalls of the eroded creek bed.

A perfect spot to catch filth eels.

Jamming a maggot onto the rusty hook he’d fashioned from a stolen paperclip Bodgie settled down on a slime covered rock.

“This is the life.” he breathed.

“What’s the life?”

Bodgie spun around at the sound of the voice, not simply because he was surprised, but because he was surprised at who the voice belonged to.

It was an elf.

More importantly it was an elf in tight tights.

More importantly it was his elf in her tight tights.

Very tight.

“Ummmm.” Managed Bodgie as he licked cracked think lips and tried to dislodge yesterday’s diner from between his front teeth before she noticed it wriggling there.

“Not so plucky now are you Bodgie?” smiled the lithe vision in front of Bodgie.

“Ummmmm.” Continued Bodgie, still flabbergasted that an actual elf was talking to him personally.

She stepped forward and he tried to look at her eyes rather than the straight length of her legs that went on and on and up and up into a vision of……

“Eye contact please, Bodgie.” She insisted.

Bodgie blinked and did his best.

“Do you know why I’m here?” she asked.

“Ummmmm.” Stammered Bodgie and his eyes started to wander again.

“Oh for Santa’s sake.” She muttered and clipped the goblin across the ears, frowning in disgust as her perfectly manicured nails on a perfectly smooth handmade contact with his grimy scalp.

“Yes? I’m sorry. It’s all my fault.” Tried Bodgie, truly unaware of any reason the elf would have to talk to a festering snozball like himself.

“The boss wants to talk to you.” Said the tight tights, no; it wasn’t the tight tights, it was their wearer. He looked up at her.


“Ugh.” She sighed. “Just come with me.”

She began to walk away and in the parts of his brain less clogged with stupidity, spite and dreams of being the king of Snotsville Bodgie made sense of what she had said.

“The boss? Me? Talking?” he said to her as she strode away.

“Yes, yes.” She replied. “Now come along.”


Her name was Elina’thanessa’vashena’kwalai; but after Bodgie’s fifteenth or so complete mutilation of the pronunciation she told him to call her Eli.

He still took the next five tries to get that right, calling her Eelee, Earli and Arlee before her darkening gaze helped him get it right lest he cop another whack across the brow.

They’d made their way to a waiting limo, the sort that goblins weren’t allowed near and another elf, a male perhaps but Bodgie couldn’t be too sure due to their general similarity in size, opened the car door and ushered him inside.

Of course he wasn’t surprised that the elves had coated the backseat in stain resistant plastic to prevent the grime that covered Bodgie staining the upholstery; in a way he was proud that they’d realized his stench was not that of an ordinary goblin.

Things were looking up.

He’d expected Eli to sit in the back seat with him but she slid in the front passenger side with the driver and Bodgie watched with a little sadness as the dividing screen rolled up, separating him from the new object of his affection.

The limo started away and Bodgie looked at the passing vistas of Snotsville; the filthy whelps, the arguing matriarchs; the piles of steaming turds waiting to be collected by the ogre trash collectors. This was the city of opportunity.

He would have liked to wind down the window and taunt his fellow goblins with his new found importance but of course the limo’s child locks prevented that and Bodgie was resigned to pulling faces that the other goblins couldn’t see through the tinted glass.

The limo left the slurry and mud of Snotsville and began the winding trek up Big Deal Mountain, which was of course named because it was impressive and goblins weren’t usually allowed there, hence why it was a big deal.

Bodgie had tried to climb the mountain once when he was a whelp, like most whelps did; but he’d been caught and roundly thrashed by the trolls that patrolled the slopes to keep out the riff-raff. He gaped in awe at the large houses, set above the ground rather than being burrows like his own; more impressively they were made of wood rather than clumps of sod and straw packed manure like the mayor’s house was down in the town itself.

“Cor, it’d be nice to live there.” Muttered Bodgie to himself.

His limited imagination immediately soared away to picture him floating in a turd filled pond, being served drinks by Eli in her tight tights and not having to worry about his multiple whelp children. He dreamed of helicopters coming down to pick him up and fly him somewhere nice although where that would be he had no clue so his daydreaming was rather short on details.

The limo stopped and Bodgie pushed his lumpy face against the window, his nose bending and slathering snot across the glass.

What a place!

He was looking at a mansion that his eyes and tiny brain struggled to actually comprehend. Three stories of clean white stone, a red tile roof and a garden with trees manicured to perfection in the shaped of some sort of leaping deer.

Bodgie reckoned they’d taste pretty good if they weren’t trees, no one wanted to eat plants; yuck.

His door was opened by the driver elf and Bodgie favored him with a toothy grin.

“Cheers cobber.” He said with a wink.

The elf merely raised an eyebrow and walked away, completely ignoring Bodgie’s heartfelt show of camaraderie.

Bodgie’s brain had a thought.

That in itself was impressive enough but it was the content of the thought that stunned him the most.

What if he was in trouble?

What if he wasn’t being rewarded but was instead being prepared for the monster of all monstrous punishments?

He froze, one step out from the door and without moving his face his eyes frantically sought an escape route.

Security guards, check; cameras, check; big scary dog; check.

No way out.

Bodgie gulped.

“Come along goblin.” Sighed Eli motioning for Bodgie to follow her towards the mansion.

Tight tights.

All fear forgotten he scuttled along behind the leggy vision, his tongue beginning to loll to the side as he watched every lithe, languid step.

By the time he was able to concentrate again he had followed her all the way through the big red front doors and into an auditorium where another busty elf sat behind a desk, her cute little face topped by a little red cap.

“Oh, you’re finally here.” She said with a pleasantness that Bodgie had never been greeted with before. “The director is waiting for you.”

Bodgie took a couple of seconds to move as he wondered if the receptionist was wearing tight tights as well, but remembered that he was really here for something else and he’d better get to it; whatever it actually was.

Eli stepped into a waiting elevator and ushered Bodgie inside, normally there was no way a goblin would let himself get into a little box with only one escape route but the little room did allow him to be very close to Eli’s legs so Bodgie made an exception.

A tendril of drool, rolled away from Bodgie’s lips, splattering loudly on the floor.

“Ugh” sighed Eli.

The elf pressed a button and the doors slid closed, causing Bodgie’s anxiety to skyrocket. By the time they’d reached the third floor he was shaking in terror and was finding it hard to prevent his bowels from collapsing.

The door slid open with a little “ding!”

Bodgie relaxed and gratefully loosened his sphincter, a long tortured toot slid out.

Eli looked at him disgusted.

“Sorry.” Apologized Bodgie, but he actually felt very relieved.

They were in a very large room and taking pride of place was a very large desk, behind which was a very large man.

A very large man indeed.

With a full white beard, horn rimmed glasses and a fur trimmed suit, Bodgie knew there was only one person it could be.

“Ronald Mc Donald?” he gasped.

The man behind the desk raised an eyebrow in askance and looked at Eli.

“I see you weren’t joking about him then.”

Eli shook her head and sighed. “I’m afraid not Santa, this may be the most stupid, self-aggrandizing, filthy and lecherous goblin we have in the entire company; and considering how wretched goblins are in general, that’s saying something.”

Bodgie didn’t understand the big words but he knew that if he was standing in front of Ronald McDonald then it was a big deal, perhaps they were going to give him a free cheeseburger. He hoped so.

“What do you have to say for yourself, Bodgie?” asked Santa, his voice deep, gruff but apparently not angry.

“I don’t like pickles.” Replied Bodgie. “You are what you eat and I don’t want to be a pickle, I’ve already got enough lumps and the missus say’s I’m sour enough as it is.” He tried his best grin.

Santa sat back and let out a big sigh, then pursed his lips.

“Bodgie, we’ve been watching your work performance for some time now.” He began.

Well, that sounded hopeful thought Bodgie, although what the boss of a hamburger company had been doing at Santa’s workshop he had no idea.

The penny dropped.

“Oh, you’re not Ronald” tittered Bodgie, noting the man’s full beard and Santa began to sit back relieved.

“You’re George RR Martin!” exclaimed the goblin.

The man’s face spasmed and grew as red as his suit.

“No, you dithering idiot of a goblin. I’m Santa.” He roared.

Bodgie wasn’t sure why the old bloke was getting angry, it was a simple enough mistake to make.

“Oh, you mean Santa from that Bible book?” he said, “I always thought you’d have horns like a goat and maybe a tail. I guessed the color right though.”

The old man looked ready to explode. Eli put her dainty hand on his shoulder.

“It is okay boss, he has this effect on pretty much everyone.”

Santa regained his composure. “Well I guess that’s why he’s here.”

Bodgie wasn’t sure who they were talking about now so he took the opportunity to clean out his nose; no point in interrupting their conversation; he thought.

“Bodgie” Santa started again. “We’ve been watching you for some time and we’ve come to a conclusion.

Bodgie stopped searching for nuggets mid-pick and tried to concentrate on listening.

“You are without doubt, the laziest, most inept, and cowardly and ultimately worthless employee that Santa’s Workshop Industries has ever had.”

Bodgie’s brain decided that didn’t sound so good after all, he started to cringe.

Santa continued. “We’ve got you on camera stealing stationary, filling our yPhones with dirt instead of circuitry and coming back from your five minute break two hours later, then saying that you were rescuing babies from burning houses.”

Bodgie remembered that incident, he’d actually gone fishing and fallen asleep on the creek bank.

“Further, you’ve blamed co-workers for problems with packing, stolen lunches from the fridge and photo-copied your butt….” Santa stopped and leafed through some files until he found what he wanted. “Fifteen thousand times.”

“I thought something was stuck up there.” Explained Bodgie.

“You are the most wretched and useless of all of our employees Bodgie the goblin and as a result something needs to be done.”

Here it comes, thought Bodgie, he was going to get a hammering from the missus when she found out. Perhaps he’d run away and never come back; perhaps he become a hobo and live on the land…..

“We’re promoting you to middle management.” Announced Santa.

“What?” sniffed Bodgie.

“You’re being promoted Bodgie.” Said Eli as Santa took out a pipe and stuffed it. “Every multi-national company needs people who can be blamed for its failures and who frustrate the attempts of customers to raise legitimate complaints. You are the most annoying and useless employee we could find and you’re perfect to be a manager of production standards.”

“What’s a standard?” asked Bodgie.

Eli continued, ignoring his question. “You’ll be required to wear a suit and we’ll give you a free yPhone, access to the coffee machine and corporate bar and of course a pay rise.”

“A pay rise?” shouted Bodgie, causing Santa to drop his pipe. “How much, how much, how much?”

Eli rolled her eyes but continued, doing her best to be patient. “We’re increasing your pay to two copper pieces and a brass razoo.”

“Cor, thanks boss.” Bodgie tittered in Santa’s general direction, his gaze flicked to Eli.

Tight tights.

“Bodgie, concentrate.” Huffed Eli.

“Sorry.” Apologized the goblin, again not with any sincerity at all.

“You’ll start tomorrow, Bodgie.” Grunted Santa, putting a match to the pipe bowl. “There are some documents that need to be read and signed of course, but we’re expecting big things from you and by that I mean a continuing train wreck of ineptitude and stupidity. None of that really matters though as long as our profit margins increase.”

Bodgie decided that since he was one of the big boys now he might take a seat, he swaggered over to a plush lounge.

“Bodgie.” Said Eli firmly.

“Yes?” replied the goblin with his best lecherous wink.

“Get out.”

The trip back to Snotsville wasn’t as glamorous as the one to Santa’s mansion with Bodgie being dropped off at the town limits to walk the rest of the way home. Still, nothing could dampen his mood. He was now an up and coming goblin, the world was his oyster, up and at them and all that.

As he passed by other goblins he made a point to sneer at them along his nose, tilting the parsnip shaped organ high into the air and causing Bodgie to have difficulty seeing where he was going.

He decided to celebrate, so rather than heading for his burrow he made his way to the best bar in town; the Snooty Fox.

Although considered a bar of some standing by goblins, the Snooty Fox was little more than a collection of cardboard boxes propped up against an abandoned shipping container, various attempts at decoration smeared its surface, some more organic than others. But for Snotsville it was the very pinnacle of class and style and Bodgie kept his nose high as he pushed open the front door and sauntered over to the bar.

The bar goblin, a thin and perpetually sniffing chap by the name of Bongo eyed Bodgie as he came close.

“You got cash? We don’t give credit ‘cause you never pay it back.” Sneered the barman before Bodgie could place an order.

“Well, it just so happens I do.” Sneered Bodgie, dragging a mole dropping out of his pocket and slamming it onto the counter top.

“One of your best, barkeep.” Ordered Bodgie, still trying to keep his nose in the air although his neck was starting to ache a little bit now.

Bongo stared at the nugget of mole poo on the counter and his expression almost changed to a smile.

“As you would have it, good sir.” He sniffed and rushed off to fill a bowl with whatever slop he could find out back.

Bodgie looked around at the establishment, a pair of particularly obese lady goblins sat squeezed into a booth nearby, studiously avoiding the attentions of lecherous goblins leering and gawping in their general direction.

There was a guy with a hood trying to look dark and mysterious in the corner, he called himself Strider but everyone knew he was just a homeless bloke with a broken sword.

Finally though there was a youngish gobliness cleaning the tables with a filthy rag that she periodically moistened by rubbing it across her nose. She certainly wasn’t as noteworthy as Eli in her tight tights but for a goblin she was less than unpleasant, with minimum wart coverage and a tangled mass of thinning black hair.

On her upper lip.

The barman returned and Bodgie slammed down the disgusting brew fast, then ordered another.

“Make it a double.” He said, loud enough for the waitress to hear him talking tough.

Bongo tittered and took the rest of the mole poo before pouring a double shot of some lumpy puke into the drinking bowl.

Bodgie made his best tough guy face and stared at the wall, then tilted the bowl and slurped down the whole stinking mixture; trying not to wretch as he did so.

“Ahhhhh” he breathed, the vile liquid burning his throat and his eyes starting to water.

But it did the trick and the usually pathetic goblin felt full of vim and vigor, he stood up from the bar-stool and approached the waitress as she continued to clean.

“Come here often?” Bodgie asked, trying to make his thin squeaky voice as deep and masculine as possible.

“I work here you idiot.” She snapped. “Now get out of my face before I bite ya.”

Bodgie stepped back before he remembered that he was probably drunk and as a result shouldn’t be allowing common sense to determine his actions.

“I ain’t seen you around here before.” He tried again, sticking his thumbs in the ragged rope he used as a belt.

“That’s because you ain’t ever been in here before you useless loafer.” Snapped the girl, digging an elbow into Bodgies ribs as she pushed past him.

Bodgie could tell she was into him, even if she wasn’t he wasn’t the sort of goblin to take no for an answer; especially not now he was climbing the corporate ladder, especially not when he had a double shot of liquor under his fraying belt.

But to win this girl over he needed to be smart, he needed to be smooth.

“How about we get a room?” he smiled, trying his best line.

The waitress turned to him, fists balled.

“How about I shove this booze soaked rag up your bum and set it on fire?” She snarled.

Bodgie immediately shrank into his most pathetic whimpering cringe, shaking and dribbling snot for all he was worth. Just as it had won the missus over all those moons ago it worked here and the waitress grabbed him by the ears and dragged him to the back door.

Despite the shooting pain Bodgie couldn’t help grinning to himself.

“Best day ever!” he chittered as he was flung headlong outside to land in a puddle of cold yellow rain water, smacking his bulbous head on a discarded half brick.


He awoke half covered by an itchy blanket, a louse sitting between his eyes as if it were a triumphant mountain climber. This wasn’t his bed, he didn’t have a bed; he usually slept in a shallow dirt depression next to the missus’ shuddering, snoring bulk.

“I got you something to eat.” Said a scratchy, irritating voice.

It was the waitress.

Success! Thought Bodgie, although his head pounded and he couldn’t remember any details that certainly wouldn’t stop him bragging to all the other goblins at the warehouse about another sexual conquest.

That’s when he remembered; he didn’t work at the warehouse anymore, he was a big boy; a corporate lackey on the road to moderate success.

As he basked in his own importance the waitress shoved a half-eaten meal worm in his face.

“I saved this for you.” She said. “Also, um some trolls came in here in the middle of the night and stole all your money. I don’t know who they were either.”

Bodgie narrowed his eyes, trying to detect if she was lying but was distracted by her bust and quickly forgot what he was suspicious about.

“You gotta go to work now, darling.” Said the girl. “Remember to come home to Gitsi.”

“Who’s Gitsi?” asked Bodgie, genuinely perplexed.

The girl looked like she was ready to hit him and Bodgie shrieked before hiding under the moth-eaten blanket but when the blow didn’t eventuate he peeked out through a hole.

“I’m Gitsi.” She purred. “Your wife, remember?”

Bodgie certainly could not and let’s face it; one vicious, violent wife and a dozen whelps was enough.

“Yeah, nah. Sorry, I wasn’t looking for a relationship.” He tried.

Her face went red. “You what?” she screamed.

“It was just some fun.” Answered Bodgie, looking around for an exit.

Gitsi struck a melodramatic pose. “You lied to me Bodgie, you said you’d be my bloke forever; you were my first!”

Bodgie doubted that very much, goblins were about as chaste as an ogres were scientists.

“Would you abandon me like a common street walker?” cried the waitress, “to fend for myself and feed our whelps without a father?”

“Huh?” said Bodgie.

As if to demonstrate Gitsi flung open the room’s cardboard door and a half-dozen mewling grots tumbled into the room, punching and pinching and biting one another.

“They ain’t mine.” Bodgie protested.

“Oh yes they are, look at them; they’ve got your eyes and this little one you named yourself, Bodgie Junior.”

The runts did have coloring similar to Bodgies and their eyes were the same mixture of muddy brown and yellow. Still, he wasn’t convinced.

“How’d you have them so quick?” he questioned, trying to be as cunning as possible.

“What? You think it was quick?” retorted Gitsi, “I struggled in labor for hours to have your whelps I did and this is the thanks I get. You’re a no good thingywhatsit, Bodgie. I was wrong to think you’d ever be the goblin of my dreams.”

The tirade was confusing for Bodgie, he actually had no idea how long it took goblins to have whelps, they’d always just turned up at inopportune moments and well, this was inopportune so maybe that was how it was supposed to be.

“I can promise you that your other wife is gonna hear about this.” Gitsi threatened, rubbing a slice of onion on her eyes as she did so and forcing out some crocodile tears.

A shock of fear ran through Bodgie’s crooked spine, the missus would kill him if she found out he’d been less than faithful. She might not look limber but the old toad could put on a turn of speed like a trash avalanche down a hillside.

“Aw nah, no need to do that; my love.” Pleaded Bodgie. “I’ll look after ya and the little ones, after all I’m a business grot now, and I’m moving on up.”

Gitsi looked at him through narrowed eyes and used her feet to shovel the screaming whelps back through the door before slamming it shut.

“See that you do, or I’ll have yer guts for garters.” She hissed.

Hearing the word garters just made Bodgie’s tiny brain think of Eli in her tight tights, but he got the gist of the threat and slinked towards the door, pulling on his grimy pants as he went.


Bodgies first big day was a bit of a blur. He’d been presented with an off the rack suit that was far too big and sent to shower. When he couldn’t figure out what the taps did he was washed down by a pair of disgusted looking elves that stood on the far side of the room and pummeled Bodgie’s skinny frame with blasts from a high pressure hose. There was a first time for everything but Bodgie certainly hoped that would be the last time he was required to bathe.

Climbing into the suit because he couldn’t get the buttons undone; Bodgie took a couple of minutes to appraise himself in the change room mirror. His hands disappeared in the jacket’s sleeves and his head poked out between the shoulder pads like a winged Brussels sprout. His shoeless feet flapped on the floor under a pool of pants fabric.

He was the best dressed goblin in the whole stinking town.

An elf came along to show him to his office, a goblin sized room that he was going to be sharing with two mops, a dust pan and a non-functioning fax machine. He was pretty impressed that it was as big as it was; in total it was twice as big as his own burrow at home.

As he took a seat behind the fax machine a gnome with a neat little white beard and one of those red caps marched up and deposited a large stack of papers in front of him.

“Smith wants these checked and signed before lunchtime, have Robertson send them off to accounting and then make sure you notify Jacobs downstairs.” Snapped the gnome before marching off again.

“What?” asked Bodgie, but the gnome was gone.

The goblin looked at the stack of documents, every one of the paper sheets was covered in squiggles and dots in what Bodgie assumed was some kind of typed print. He actually didn’t know and nor did he really care. He wasn’t here to do drudge work and he certainly wasn’t going to take orders from a gnome of all things.

He hated gnomes.

Didn’t everyone hate gnomes?

He decided to go for a walk.

The hallways of head office were busy with gnomes and elves rushing this way and that. Bodgie often had to step to the side to avoid being run over by trolleys carrying herbal teas between board meetings or frenzied gnomes with stacks of manila folders held in their stubby little arms.

Bodgie strutted along, deep in his own sense of self-importance taking in the view and generally trying to avoid thinking about whatever it was he was actually being paid to do. Surely some underling would deal with it; as a manager he couldn’t expect to deal with the banal trivialities of running a business.

He came to the refectory and poked his nose inside. The smell of freshly baked breads, fruit platters and delicate wines assailed his nostrils as he saw elves and gnomes in their corporate attire chatting and eating amicably.

“Disgusting.” Snorted Bodgie. “Who would want to eat that filth?”

His outburst caused a passing she-gnome to circle wide around him and Bodgie scowled in her general direction. His mood was flattened to the extent that he decided to return to his office and sulk for a while.

He sulked for a very long while in fact, so long that when the gnome who had dropped off the papers earlier returned Bodgie was still sulking.

“Oh, you’ve stacked them up for me as well.” Said the Gnome in surprise seeing them in the neat pile where they had been left.

“Huh?” said Bodgie, confused what he was talking about.

The gnome’s smile turned to shock as he skimmed through the documents.

“These haven’t been signed, nothing has been ratified or notated; did you even look at them?” he trilled, anxiety spilling off him in waves.

“What? Read what?” answered Bodgie, not understanding what the fuss was about.

“Yes, did you complete any of the documents I gave to you this morning?” hissed the panicked gnome, his little white beard quivering and his eyes set wide.

“Well, I took a dump and wiped my bum with the bit at the top.” Smiled Bodgie, “I put it in there.” He continued pointing to where a defiled document was stuffed into the feed of the broken fax machine.

“Oh, by Santa’s red sleigh.” Gasped the gnome. “Never, can I….”

He didn’t finish his sentence and instead rushed away sobbing as Bodgie peered out from behind the fax machine, watching the passing elves and gnomes being hopelessly productive.

“It’s good to be a boss.” He quipped and settled in for a nap.


The rest of the week went well with Bodgie shirking his responsibilities and making excuses about having to work late instead of going home. He had actually started frequenting a little bar on the upper side of town and was getting quite a reputation as a ladies’ goblin.

Of course the innocent partying soon descended into farce with Bodgie being kicked out of the bar on account for stealing bottles of Mudbrown Champagne and drinking it out of a shoe, not his shoe mind you but somebody’s.

At work he spent most of his hours nursing terrible hangovers and trying not to listen to the complaints from the gnomes about how he wasn’t completing his paperwork on time. Eli had visited him twice and commented on his shonky behavior but Bodgie felt bulletproof and wasn’t worried about her opinion too much anymore.

“You’re not the only girl with tight tights around here.” He’d slurred after she’d woken him up one afternoon. She’d left without another word being said.

Life was good. He’d made sure he’d called past the old workshop every day, just to rub in how awesome he was compared to the other goblins and was pleased to hear they were complaining about him behind his back; to a goblin, being hated by your friends and family meant you on top of the heap.

So it was that two weeks into his new job Bodgie was called into Santa’s offices; the morning before Christmas, to give a report on how his office was doing.

Bodgie wasn’t actually sure how to present a report; he wasn’t sure what a report was in the first place although he guessed that “presenting” was when you give someone something, preferably something they wanted.

That would be difficult for Bodgie because as a goblin, anything that anyone else wanted certainly shouldn’t be shared in the first place and the only proper way to get something you wanted was by stealing it or cajoling it with threats.

Eli walked him to the office on the top floor where Santa spent his time.

“Bodgie, today’s an important day and could it is important that you prove you’re everything we hoped for.” She said, not unkindly.

As usual, Bodgie had no idea what she was talking about but his ego had swollen to the point where he was no longer entranced by her tight tights and could concentrate on his own self-importance.

“Don’t you worry about a thing.” He quipped. “Everything and wotsit is under complete control.”

A pair of elves opened the door to Santa’s boardroom and Bodgie waltzed himself inside, taking a seat without being asked.

“Whassup Fat Man?” Bodgie chittered, giving Santa two thumbs up.

Santa, in the middle of eating a cheese and pickle sandwich, choked a little at the goblin’s temerity but recovered well enough to gasp out a greeting.

“Bodgie, good to see you; how are things in your department going?”

Santa coughed a couple of times and knocked back a shot of whiskey to clear his throat.

“Not bad, not bad.” Smile Bodgie, placing his dirty, bare feet on the hardwood table and leaning back in his chair as Santa took another bite of his sandwich. “I sacked the gnomes in finance though.” Said the goblin absentmindedly; “I didn’t like the way they were doing their job.”

Santa choked again and between gasps managed to get out. “The gnomes in finance? What ones?”

Eli looked shocked and a couple of the elves attending the room scurried out in a hurry as Bodgie picked his nose before flicking a booger towards the windows.

“All of them.”

Santa gasped for breath and his eyes bulged. Eli stood up and strode over to the reclining goblin, apparently furious.

“It’s the morning before Christmas and you’ve sacked our finance department? How in the North Pole are we supposed to balance the books?”

Bodgie looked at her as if she were stupid and tsked in annoyance. “Simple, see you’ve being paying those stupid gnomes to balance books when I could have done the whole lot for ya for next to nothing. Take a gander at this.”

Vaulting off the chair and stepping over to a bookshelf filled with lists of naughty and nice Bodgie took down two books and held his arms out wide, one in each hand.

“See, books balanced.” Said the goblin confidently.

A loud crash rang out and Eli and Bodgie looked towards Santa’s chair. Two, red clad legs stuck up in the air and the contents of his bottle of whiskey was dribbling onto the floor.

“What’s with him then?” asked Bodgie as Eli rushed over to the prone man.

“He’s dead.” Whispered the elf, her face growing pale.

“Huh?” asked Bodgie confused; “How’d that happen?”

“It appears he choked on a pickle.”  Muttered Eli, “It’s lodged in his throat.”

“Well, that’s why I don’t eat pickles.” Remarked Bodgie, picking up Santa’s sandwich and removing the pickles to eat the remaining cheese. “Never trust anything greener or sourer than a goblin, that’s just asking for trouble.”

“By the poles Bodgie, we have to do something.” Murmured the now greenish looking elf.

“Yer starting to get a bit of color in your cheeks there, Eli.” Said Bodgie between bites of cheese. “Sure you’re not a fan of gobbos?”

“Bodgie, I’m serious.” Scowled the elf. “We have a whole world’s worth of presents tonight and no one to deliver them.

“What?” slurred the goblin, completely unable to comprehend what she was talking about.

“If we don’t deliver these presents the company will go under and we will all lose our jobs.” Eli screamed.

“Oh” said Bodgie, the slow gears in his mind slowly working over the information.

“Oh” he repeated a couple of seconds later as Eli slumped into a chair in shock.

“Oh” he shrieked as he realized that if he lost his job he would need to tell his two wives, eighteen whelps and the rest of the gobbos at the pub that he was, once again; in the gutter.

Not that he minded but he’d be stuck with the hoots, jeers and backhands from a never ending line of goblins who’d love to pay him back for his unending bragging.

Something in Bodgie’s brain snapped and a never before part of his limited intellect struggled forward past the throng of dumb ideas and malicious plans.

It was his conscience.

Bodgie, it said; you’re a no good, low down ratfink and if you never did anything worth doing in your life no one would be surprised, or care.

Bodgie nodded to himself as his conscience continued.

But you’re in the thick of it now. Santa’s dead and you’ve got a chance to make a name for yourself and perhaps show the world that not all goblins are waste of space fart collectors on social benefits schemes.

That was a bit harsh, though Bodgie; but his conscience continued on.

If you don’t do the right thing now Bodgie, I’m going to torment you every day and make sure that every bad decision you make keeps you awake at night, gives you stomach cramps and reminds you of your missus.

That was the kicker, Bodgie tried not to ever think of his missus, now he didn’t overly want to think of his second one either. The decision was made.

“I’ll do it.” Bodgie announced, standing up on the table.

“You’ll do what?” Asked Eli, tears running down her cheeks.

“Save the world.” Shouted Bodgie, and striking a heroic pose he stepped forward and pointed through the window.

“Goblins have never been liked, we have been spat on, whacked on the head and kicked in the bum because people think that we’re no good, pants stealing; good for nothing ninnies.” He declared.

Eli looked at him in bewilderment; not quite the reaction he was hoping for.

“But tonight we’re going to prove that we’re not so bad. When the world needs us most we’re going to do what’s right and make sure that Christmas is the biggest success ever!”

Eli had stopped crying, looking at him in absolute confusion.

“How, on earth do you expect to do that?” she asked. “You’re a goblin.”

“Not me Miss Tight Tights” answered Bodgie, leaping off the table and taking her by the hand “us”.

“Oh, my gods.” Eli sighed in exasperation.


Little more than fifteen minutes later Bodgie had commandeered the corporate chopper and flown into the center of Snotsville. Apart from the fact that a chopper had never landed in the middle of Snotsville, or anywhere in Snotsville; Bodgie made sure he had an audience by screaming out over a megaphone to all who’d listen.

“Free beer to every goblin with a wart in a hard to scratch spot!”

The prospect of anything free would have brought the goblins out in droves but the addition of them thinking they might be getting something their neighbors weren’t ensured the goblins in the town literally stampeded towards the muddy middle ground.

They gathered around the chopper where Bodgie stood, dressed in his suit and trying to look as important as possible.

“Look, it’s Bodgie” said one goblin.

“Cor, that’s a nice suit.” Said a second.

“You owe me whelp support!” called a third.

Bodgie decided to get started before anything else could be said.

“My fellow goblins of Snotsville” he began, shouting into the megaphone as Eli desperately tried to reduce the feedback behind him. “I’m afraid there’s no free beer, but there is something greater that I can give you all today.”

“Is it free?” called out Snozgrot. “I ain’t paying for nothing you dirty stop out, unless it’s free.”

“Nothing good comes for free” replied Bodgie, embracing his inner rip-off merchant “But you won’t need to part with a single bent copper to get what I’m selling today ladies and goblins.”

Eli had to admit the runt delivered that line pretty well and the goblins hadn’t frenziedly torn him limb from limb so that was a plus. She waited with baited breath to see what he’d do next.

“What I’m offering you all today is a chance to get something no goblin has ever had before and perhaps something that will never be available again.” Bodgie called out, his reedy voice reaching to the far corners of the goblin crowd.

“What’s that then? Is it clean underwear? I ain’t never had clean underwear.” Heckled a goblin.

“No, my good friend,” Cried Bodgie joyously “clean underwear remains out of reach; but instead today I offer you something far more valuable. I offer you self-respect.”

“How we ‘sposed to use that then?” shouted Snozgrot. “You can’t eat respect can you?”

“You don’t eat respect good goblin.” Spat Bodgie, in full flight now; “you live and breathe it, you bask in it from morning until night, holding your head high when you walk past others in the street instead of cowering like sniveling dwarves.”

The goblins liked that line, not that any of them had ever seen a dwarf sniveling; that was definitely more of a goblin sort of thing.

“Yes my friends” continued Bodgie, winding up to his crescendo “I offer you this rare gift and all you have to do, is work for one, single; night.”

The audience went silent, a ball of tumbleweed took its cue and rolled across the scene dramatically.

“Work?” sneered a fat goblin by the name of Toadlicker “You having a joke?”

Hoots and jeers erupted across the audience and someone threw some lumpy porridge in Bodgie’s general direction. Bodgie, calm and collected raised his hands for silence.

Bodgie cleared his throat before stating, as clearly as he could “I know that working doesn’t come naturally to us goblins, I know you must think a troll’s smacked me in the head too many times, but think about it. What do you have to lose?”

“A whole night’s sleep.” Jeered one goblin.

“My night with your missus.” Mocked another.

Bodgie ignored them all and instead played his trump card.

“For all those that help me out, I’ll give you a 50% pay increase, no questions asked. I swear on my mother’s warts”

That sealed the deal; goblins never lied when they swore on their mother’s warts. Goblins pushed forward screaming to sign up. Everyone wanted free money and unemployed goblins wanted free money more than most.

Eli took charge.

“Every goblin interested needs to report to Santa’s carpool by 9pm tonight, if you’re late by even a second we’ll chose someone else.” She shouted and Bodgie winked at her conspiratorially.

The two climbed back aboard the chopper and Eli flew them to the carpool where two thousand Santa Sleighs stood ready for action.

“How does he drive them all?” asked Bodgie, genuinely perplexed.

“He doesn’t they’re drones.” Replied Eli, “But only Santa knew the password so luckily they can be piloted manually.”

“That’s lucky” agreed Bodgie as the first of the goblins ran into view at the bottom of the hill. “Why don’t the elves drive them then?”

Eli sniffed and looked at him incredulously. “Are you mad? Fly around in a wooden chair, propelled by two A4 batteries and some dodgy wiring? Elves don’t live for thousands of years by being stupid.”

Bodgie nodded his head, he was learning pretty fast just how much he had to learn.

Eli leaned in close as the goblins jumped in the sleighs and took off into the sky to deliver presents across the globe. “Do you think they’ll work it out before they’re finished?” she asked.

Bodgie grinned from ear to ear, which for a goblin with a face like a football was a long way. “It’s not like I lied to them.” He said “fifty percent of nothing is still nothing.”

“Good job.” She said to him, “I have to say I’m impressed.”

Bodgie winked at her and they watched the sleighs sail off in to the night sky, delivering badly made gifts to greedy children all over the world.

It was going to be a very bodgie Christmas.