HCE received a lot of high-quality submissions for The Brutal Issue – sadly, too many to fit inside the magazine! So we offered some of our shortlisted contributors the chance to be published on our website.
Keep an eye on our social media for more great writing like this, in the run up to the release of The Brutal Issue…
Through the Martian Sky
The red sky felt like a warning; leave, run, do something, anything else. Brick keeps walking, gazing up at the tower block to his left, heart pangs for the one illuminated window, willing the girl of his dreams to appear, coy and wanting, definItely looking at him. He keeps walking, closer to work, farther from home, past the rotting Magpie corpse, eyes pecked out by one of its own. In a few days, it will be gone, but he’ll still be walking past.
Pulling his collar tighter, the thick February frost grating his chest, too cold to smoke, thoughts creep up on him. The closer to the place he gets, the more it consumes him. The people squirm through his soul, the noise and the smell amalgamating into a shit-stink white noise bastard, bludgeoning the senses, eroding all sense of self down to a pathetic nub. Over the crest lies all he will ever know. A shit hole full of cunts. A gross temple of phallus worship, Rorschach dick pics on every surface, bizarre neanderthal mutations frotting in every corner, Homo Priapicus. And all overseen by the biggest prick of them all, Big Steve, the Big Boss, looking down from his ivory mezzanine above the 18,000 sq ft space, with his dodgy deals and his dirty cash and his nod nod, wink wink, don’t you worry about it. But Brick does worry.
A false hope of blue breaks through the Martian sky. Maybe they’d all be dead. He keeps walking.
There’s a real sinister edge to the usual toxic vibe. The air thick, a storm brewing. Mutterings. Sniggerings. Not so secret plans. Mitch, ‘who ain’t even an apprentice no more, like’, even though he is, because he has failed to learn that he knows nothing, has a dangerous look in his eyes, more so than usual. His hand down his work trousers, rubbing himself with glee, squawking. It’s Loobie Collins last day.
Lewis Collins. Little Loob. Eighteen going on backwards. Short black curly hair, rosy-red cheeks, a scared look in his eyes and a dumb grin grimace taking up half of his even dumber looking face. He looks like a fucking gnome; what chance did he ever have?
Brick, standing at his bench, watching Loob stumble round the workshop, can’t help but feel that maybe there truly is no hope for some people. Oblivious to the wake of stopped whisperings and sideways eyes, jumping at things that aren’t there; stumbling blindly into the fate awaiting those of his ilk that dipped a toe into an unforgiving construction industry, lambs to the slaughter, a stupid gnome turkey voting for gnome fucking christmas. He had to be taught how to use a broom, for Christ’s sake.
Grunts. Screaming. Justin fucking Beiber, wittering on about how sorry he is; not nearly sorry enough. Jed, the Foreman, all bravado, bullshit and empty promises, bleating inane sex noises over and over and over. The responses are sickening. A series of hyena cackles cut through the blaring bedlam soundtrack. There’s movement, the pack gathering. Attenborough would have a fucking field day in here. The air curdles and poor Olly can’t handle it. He’s in the corner, on his knees, facing the wall with his hands over his eyes, screaming profanity in tongues. Brick can’t take his eyes off him. He can barely hear himself think over the din of that fucking radio and the rutting has started, oh christ, he’s having visions. Visions of going to the corner…past the blaring radio…Pinky and Perky fucking pop music…to where the partition falls away…round the corner…oh God…there he is, ten metres up the steel girder, Little Loob, upside down, bollock naked, bleeding, parcel-taped ankles swollen, turning blue. Crying behind the gag; tears of bewilderment. Glue dripping from his ears, a fucking finger missing…the Priapicus tribe in full bellend mode, faces painted and topless, dancing, banging sticks, chanting, sacrificing the weakest to their grotesque phallus god… Brick steps round the corner, shaking.
Blood. Everywhere. Puddles forming; red, lumpy islands contained by the thick layer of sawdust on the floor. Kai is dead. Brick can’t wrench his eyes from the boy’s ripped out throat, still wheezing, once, twice. No more. Mitch, by the sheet rack, would have been sitting, if the lower half of his body were still attached to the top. His fat torso running directly to the floor, a lake of fatty, greasy blood surrounding him, growing bigger as the life drains out of him. A hollow impression of his stupid, molested seagull laugh emanating from his lips, annoying even in death. Jed, orange hi-vis now a dark claret, a hole in his chest, eyes bulging, choked on his own lying heart, stuffed down his lying throat, forcing his lying tongue back down into his lying stomach where the acid would dissolve what was left of the deceit. Jeans around his knees, a three metre 1” x 1” off-cut of Wenge wood protruding from his weaselly, lying anus. A stunned look on Olly’s face, disbelief and fear his final thoughts, guts spilled, the remnants of the morning café run, looking and smelling the same as they had at ten o’clock that morning. Poor old Dave, legs severed at the three-quarter length work trouser mark, eyes wide with a strange awe, twitching, trying and failing to make a roll-up with blood-soaked fingers. ‘Fuckin’ hell, Kid’ a repeated refrain as he gives up on the cigarette and starts to cry.
Brick takes a step forward, wading through blood, sounds of twitching, groaning and oozing cacophonous. Heart pounding, a demented ringing in his ears. To his right, there he is. Lewis Collins. Little Loobie. A blood-stained Skilsaw, still running, in his right hand. His left is up in his hair, pulling, on his neck, back to his hair, grinning, giggling, hopping from one foot to the other, a grotesque innocence, painful to witness, his eyes burning, a giant smear of blood covering the bottom half of his face, bits of internal organ stuck to his cheek. No time to react. Grappling, Brick has both hands on his wrists, a screeching blade inches from his face, both slipping in the sea of blood. Fuck, the little shit is strong. Eyes locked. Brick doesn’t stand a chance against the gargoyle giant burning orbs, penetrating him, drilling down to his heart, twisting, squeezing, the wrath overwhelming. Pushing back, Loob is screaming like a girl, Brick trying desperately to do something, spin him around and…and…trip over old Dave’s dismembered left ankle. There’s a sickening thud on the way down.
He wakes to a blinding light. And Justin fucking Bieber. This can’t be heaven. He manages to blink. It hurts. He turns his head. It hurts. Through the loading bay doors, the world looks peaceful. The sun bright in a fierce blue sky, the frost melted, even the hookers outside Girls! Girls! Girls! look at ease, laughing and smoking. He can see Lewis, chasing a piece of plastic around the yard, leaping and giggling. He drags himself up, back resting on the old Wadkin ripsaw, the Somme stretched out before him. In the distance, the back of the receptionist’s head, laughing, oblivious, through the giant window on the far wall. Hands covered in his own blood. He looks down at what is left of his stomach, touching it, finding solace in the perverse pleasure of pushing something that shouldn’t be outside of his body back in. He’d do anything for a cigarette. Looking up to his left, Big Steve, the Big Boss, is at the other giant window, looking down, expressionless.
Calculating the agency fees for the replacement staff.
BEN FISHER is 33 and lives in Bristol. A carpenter by day, he writes stories and plays guitar in a band by night. His nine piece mini saga ‘The Home Life Of Wile E Coyote’ has been published as a series in Bunbury magazine.