Month: June 2016

Fowl Play – Part 2: Breathe

The four students piled into the room hastily and found themselves in a small laboratory. The room was a long rectangular shape. 12 desks, arranged 3 by 4, stood near them, facing towards a large white board that was fixed to the wall. Surrounding the arrangement of chairs was a long singular white work table that was fixated to, and followed, the wall around the room. Upon this work surface stood an arrangement of expensive scientific equipment. The uses of which were completely unknown to the 4 students that had just stumbled in. The glossy work surfaces, and indeed the desks, all reflected a harsh white light, as some of the warm golden rays seeped through the blinds that hung over the windows.

Further down the room stood a long computer desk, similar to the ones used in the I.T Suite, with computers sat upon it back to back. Sat down at one of these computers was a young man that they had not encountered before, who stood up as they entered the room.

He was of average height and had long black hair, it was a mess which had clearly not been brushed or styled. He was completely silent, staring at them, two black bags sagged heavily under both his dark brown eyes.

Standing next to him was the girl that they had met previously in the I.T suite on the upper floor. Both wore long bright white lab coats.

“So this is the group that you ran into upstairs?” The scruffy man asked, turning his head to his fellow student.

“That’s correct. However we haven’t had a chance to be formally introduced.” She stepped forward, “My name’s Teah, Teah Nicole, and this is Roland Johnston.”

Kayla stepped forward and replied, “My name is Kayla and this is Vauhn, Logan and Lizelle.” She walked next to each person as she introduced them, they all one by one accompanied her introduction with a slight raise of the hand.

“I heard that one of you needs medical treatment.” Roland said in a dull monotone voice, cutting the pleasantries short.

“Two of us.” Vauhn replied, “Kayla has a gash on the back of her neck and I’ve…” He didn’t have to finish his sentence, instead he brought up his blood soaked hands and smiled wearily.

“I see. No problem, I’ve got some supplies that can help patch you up.” Roland said back, “First go and wash the blood from your hands. Kayla come with me.”

He ushered her over to a supply cupboard, which he began searching through. Pulling out odd bottles of chemicals and scrap pieces of equipment, things that were completely unknown to Kayla.

“Here we go.” Roland said, pulling out two small bottles and a roll of bandages. The scruffy student sat Kayla down and began to inspect her wounds.

On the other side of the room, Liz was leaning against the work surface, looking down aimlessly at the floor . “So, What do you know about these birds?” she asked as she brought her cold stare up and set it firmly upon Teah’s anxious face.

She said nothing.

“You’re the zoologist aren’t you?”

Teah threw her dark brown eyes across to Roland, who met her glance for a slight second, before pouring more iodine onto a rag and dabbing it gently onto Kayla’s wound.

Teah remained silent.

“Tell me! Our friend Carole is gone because of those god damn things!” Liz shouted, pushing herself off of the work surface. “I’ve lost my Jason! I- We deserve answers!”

She slammed her fist onto a desk, the tears that were welling up in her eyes began to stream down her pale white cheeks. She sank back onto the work surface and planted her head in her hands. “Tell me , please.” She begged quietly.

Logan stared down at the floor, both arms firmly crossed, and sat helplessly listening to Lizelle’s heart breaking cry. Vauhn and Kayla looked to one another, able to see the sorrow in each others eyes. They reached for each others hands, locking their fingers tightly together.

“Just tell her Teah.” Roland said dully, sparing no thoughts of sympathy for the heartfelt moment.

Teah gulped and drew in a breath. “Roland and I are responsible for the birds.”

Lizelle brought her head upwards from out of her hands and stared at Teah with a set of unruly eyes. The small kindling of sorrow within her began to bellow and flamed up into a full rage. The fire of which spread throughout her body.

Teah simply stood, shakily, with her arms hanging awkwardly limp by her sides.

Liz grabbed a microscope that sat on the work surface beside her, and catapulted forward. Bringing the microscope above her head, with the sole intent of driving it into Teah’s skull.

Teah froze solid in terror. Just as Lizelle was about to bring the microscope down upon her, Vauhn intervened.

“Stop!” He cried, as he jumped between the two. “This isn’t going to bring him back Liz.”

Slowly, she brought her arm down and dropped the microscope, it struck the floor with a loud thud. Teah flinched.

Vauhn put his arm round Liz, and walked her over to a desk, withdrawing a chair that was tucked under it.

“Everything’s going to be alright Liz. But we need to stay focused if we hope on getting out of here.” He whispered to her, “Do it for Jason, And Carole. Once we’re out of here we can bring these two to justice. Alright?”

“Okay.” She replied weakly.

Vauhn got up off of his knees and turned to face Teah and Roland with an iron stare.

“Get talking.”

Teah looked nervously over at Roland. Who nodded and also waved to Vauhn, ushering him over to have his shredded hands looked at.

“Okay… Well… You see… I’m a zoologist and Roland is a biologist. We worked together on our thesis project.”

“The project being… designing killer birds?” Logan asked.

An uneasy look came across Teah’s face, she glanced over at Liz and caught a glimpse of her blue, sorrow filled eyes. Then darted her stare back at the clear white floor. “Are any of you familiar with a term called ‘breeding back?'”

Her question was met with silence.

“They’re not Zoologists Teah.” Roland said in dry voice, tenderly working on disinfecting Vauhn’s hands. Sterilising them before tightly wrapping each finger, then palm, in cotton bandages.

She threw a glare at her partner, unappreciative of his bluntness.

“Breeding back is a form of artificial selection by the deliberate selective breeding of domestic animals. In an attempt to regain traits of a wild type ancestor.” Teah explained, turning to use the white board that was fixed upon the wall behind her.

She began by crudely drawing two cows, one with a small set of horns, labelled domestic cow, and another with a large set of horns, labelled Auroch cow.

“The Auroch cow was a breed of large wild cattle that inhabited Europe, Asia and North Africa. However, they’re now extinct. It does have a living ancestor though, the tamer and smaller domestic cow.” Teah turned back to the board and drew an arrow, pointing from the domestic cow, towards the the Auroch cattle. “However, scientists thought that the code that once made up the Auroch cattle, must still exist, in part, within its ancestor. So they began breeding domestic cows that had similar characteristics to their extinct predecessors. Then they repeated the process, drawing out more of those hidden traits with every offspring produced. The result?”

“Bringing Auroch cattle back again?” Logan asked.

“No.” Teah turned round once again and drew another arrow pointing towards a new cow. “The result was they created an all new sub-species of cow. One that was very similar to the Auroch Cattle but was not the real deal. For you can’t 100% bring a creature back from the dead in this way, you just end up breeding a new species with similar traits.”

Kayla asked, “So I take it you decided to do the same with chickens…? But what ancestry does a chicken have that you would possibly want to breed back to?”

Teah turned back round to face the group that sat before her in the laboratory, sitting herself down on a stool that was present near the whiteboard.

“For starters we didn’t use chickens, per say.” Roland said unexpectedly, whilst putting some of the medical supplies back into a cupboard. “We used both Red and Grey Jungle-fowls. They’re believed to be the ancestor of the common chicken. We figured if we wanted to breed back, we might as well start with an animal further back on the evolutionary scale. Secondly, Jungle-fowls, and indeed chickens, belong to an evolutionary group known as Coelurosauria. Any guesses what that is?”

He gently shut the cupboard doors and turned back round to face the silent group.

“Like you said, we’re not Zoologists.” Logan scoffed, both arms folded tightly against his chest.

“Neither am I.”

Logan sneered.

“Coelurosaurs are a group of Theropods, creatures that stand on their hind legs and have hinge like ankles. Birds are part of this group, included as well are: Ornithomimidae, Manirapatora, Dromaeosaurs, Troodontids, Oviraptors and… Tyrannosaurids.”

“Dinosaurs? You were trying to recreate the dinosaurs?” Vauhn exclaimed loudly.

“A bit above and beyond for a uni dissertation.” Logan muttered, “Bloody over achievers.”

“We weren’t trying to re-create them. Merely breed out traits that have been locked away in their ancestors genetics.”

Kayla got up and began to pace the room, “At no point did you think that this might have been a bad idea!?”

“We had no idea of the potential locked away within these animals! At first the only thing that we noticed was the jungle-fowls feet which grew thick grey scales. They also began to have a firmer, upright posture.”

“Yeah well, you both did something that unlocked a hell of a lot worse than scaly chicken feet!”

“More radical changes occurred when we started introducing chemicals into the embryos. Growth stimulants and steroids, to help them cope with the rapid ageing process that we subjected them too.” Roland replied, a darkness set in his eyes. “That’s when we noticed the diet change, the jungle-fowls moved from seeds and oats to meat and bone. It was quite frankly…. incredible.”

Kayla looked over worryingly at Vauhn. His own face was stern, his deep set features were rigid like stone, and slowly he lifted one eyebrow.

“Where were you storing these jungle-fowls?” He asked, “We’ve been in this building many times before and saw no sign of these creatures.”

Teah responded quietly, “We rented out one of the rooms on the top floor. We kept them stored away safely in there.”

“Not safely enough it would seem.” Logan added.

Teah scowled at the young man and was met with an equally fierce set of eyes.

Roland got up from the chair he was perched upon and rested a hand on Teah’s shoulder. “We didn’t predict that the rate of growth in the birds intelligence would be so… Dramatic.”

“This is why you shouldn’t play god.” Kayla said to them.

“Playing god is a fundamental characteristic of human nature.” Roland snapped, “It’s the drive that urges us to improve ourselves and the environment around us. Without the urge to ‘play God’, the world we know wouldn’t exist today.”

A heavy silence set in the room and the students were still.

“If these Jungle-fowls are as intelligent as you say. Then its only a matter of time before they make their way in here, no matter how secure you claim this room is.” said Vauhn turning his focus to Roland.

“We should inform the authorities.” Liz said quietly.

“They’ve already been notified, we’ve told them to stay out of the building and keep a secure perimeter.” Teah replied. “If they were to make their way in to help us, they risk releasing one of these birds out into the wild. Which is a thought… I dare not think about.”

“You think they’d breed if released?”

“Without a doubt. If they’re intelligent enough to hunt down humans, they’re intelligent enough to know how to continue their species.” Roland chuckled, however his humour was not shared by the rest of the group.

“Regardless. We need to get moving, like Vauhn said, It’s only a matter of time before those birds find their way in here.” said Kayla, “And as you have said, Teah, those birds were kept on the top floor. So we need to make sure we get to the ground floor before they do. If we hope on getting out of here alive. Are you two going to come with us?”

The four students all turned their attention to Teah and Roland.

“You’ll probably fare better with our help. With all things considered.” Teah replied.

Roland walked over to one of the computers that was perched upon a desk and withdrew a small USB stick, after tapping a few of the keys. He placed the small item within his black jeans pocket. Vauhn eyed up Roland inquisitively as he walked past him. Who looked back with a smirk across his face.

He leaned towards Kayla and whispered in her ear, “I don’t trust that guy.”

“Nor me. But he’s our best chance to get out of here.”

Vauhn nodded sombrely, fixated on Roland as he walked across the room to Teah. “I suggest we use the door opposite to the one you came through.” He said dully. “The fowls will probably be waiting for us outside there. Plus if we head out the other door, we can follow the corridor down and use one of the lifts to get us down to the ground floor just a bit quicker.” Roland smiled weakly at the group.

Teah and Roland walked over to the other exit, which lay at the bottom of the mini I.T suite which sat in one half of the room. Logan, Lizelle, Kayla and Vauhn all made their way over as well, preparing themselves for the ordeal and danger that lay ahead of them.

Roland was poised at the door, he looked at each of the worried faces that stood before him. “Is everybody ready?”

One by one, each of the students gave an anxious nod. Logan swallowed, in attempt to lessen the lump that nervously knotted within his throat.

“We can do this.” Vauhn said firmly, clenching his bandage bound hands tightly. “Open it.”

Roland flung the door open and Vauhn leaped out into the brightly lit corridor. Only to have a set of talons burrowed deep into his face.

End of Part 2

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Fowl Play – Part 1: Run

It was a quiet and blissful day. A clear blue blanketed the sky above, accompanied with crisp midday sunlight. The golden rays bled through the open shutters of a study room, in which 6 students were present. Each of them sat at a table with a personal laptop and their notes scattered out in front of them.

They were working on their dissertations, in hopes that their efforts over the 4 years at university were not completely wasted. The silence that smothered the room was suddenly broken , when one of the students, Carole Bielby, threw a pen across at another student. She was not one to sit in boredom alone.

The small Biro raced through the air, across the heads of several other students and landed onto a laptop keyboard. Interrupting the focused typing of another student, Vauhn Rogers, much to his annoyance. “I think you lost your pen Carole.” He said, as he picked up the Biro and walked across to her. He placed the pen carefully on the table, next to a pile of notes.

“How’s it coming along anyway?” He asked, leaning over to see her laptop. The screen was filled with thousands of words that made up Carole’s complicated thesis.

“It’s going well I’d say!” She replied, as she stretched her arms above her head, yawning as she did so. “Communications wizard right here.”

Vauhn let out a small laugh. “Confident as always Carole.”

“As confident as I am beautiful, you mean.” She replied as she stared up at Vauhn with a sly grin. Who shook his head gently with a faint smile on his face. However despite her arrogance, one could not deny that Carole was a soft sight on the eyes, with long silver blonde hair, red cheeks and a pair of dazzling crystal blue eyes. She was also fiercely intelligent and found very little that challenged her academically.

On the table to their left sat two more fellow students, Lizelle Grobbelaar and Jason Littleton. They were a quiet couple, Jason more so, and very much kept to themselves. Despite their silence, they were still considered friends by the rest of the group.

However Lizelle sat up from her laptop screen, took off her circular spectacles and rubbed her eyes. “Wish it was that easy for me.” She said across to them, undoing the bobble her hair was in and re-tying it once again. “My brain feels like its about to fall apart.”

“Don’t worry so much Liz, I’ve seen your work, you’re going to do well!” Vauhn replied with a smile strung across his light brown face. “Have some pride in your work. What about you Jason, everything cool with you?”

At first Jason didn’t even register what it was that was said, and continued to furiously tap at the keys on his laptop. He made sure that he didn’t lose his train of thought. After a couple seconds, he looked up sheepishly, pushing his glasses back to the bridge of his nose. “Huh..? Wha.. What was that Vauhn?” He stammered.

“Your dissertation mate, going well?” Vauhn repeated

“Oh, yeah, yep. Quite well thanks.” After that short reply, Jason put his head down once again, to continue thrashing at the keys.

“Don’t take offence Vauhn.” said Liz, as she put her circular spectacles back on. “You know how focused he gets.” She leaned over and gave Jason’s hand a reassuring squeeze. Jason looked up from his work and a little smile grew on his face.

“Don’t worry, I know. I’ll let you guys get back on with it.” said Vauhn as he went to leave. “Oh and before I forget, Carole, try not to loose your pen this time okay?”

“No promises” She replied with a wink.

Vauhn then made his way back to his own table, once again shaking his head whilst chuckling to himself. At the table he was working at sat two more students, Kayla Wampler and Logan Cameron. When he finally reached his seat Kayla turned to him. “Yeah, ours are going fine, thanks for asking.” She snapped, whilst delivering a playful nudge.

” Hey! I didn’t ask because I knew that you two would be getting on just fine!” Vauhn replied calmly.

“I can’t wait for this all to be over.” Logan added dully, leaning back in his chair and staring at the rich blue sky that lay beyond the window. “Tempted to just pack it in now and go buy the biggest cheapest bottle of whiskey I can find and neck it in one.”

Kayla looked over at him. “This is the final stretch of it, you’re going to pass like all of us are. You underestimate yourself.” She said, in an attempt to comfort him.

“We’ll see.” He replied before running his hands through his brown messy hair.

Kayla rolled her eyes, and both herself and Vauhn continued on with their work. The room was then silent once again, except for the faint tapping of computer keys and the occasional scribble of cheap biro on paper.

Until unexpectedly Jason, of all people, spoke out. “I think there’s a chicken in here…”

All 5 of the other students turned to him, stared for a moment, then erupted into laughter.

“Where did that come from!?” Carole replied mockingly.

“I’m being serious, I heard a cluck.”

“I think you’ve been working too hard babe.” Lizelle said quietly to him, trying her best to contain the wild smile that was working across her face.

After a short moment the students had settled down and the silence returned. But Jason was still looking about nervously, trying to find the source of the noise that he swore he heard. Then seemingly out of no where a loud definitive cluck was heard within the small study room.

“Okay… I definitely heard that one…” Vauhn said nervously, as he looked up from his laptop.

All six of the students looked about their surroundings, trying to find the source of the noise, until Lizelle called out from the far end of the room, where she and Jason were sat.”It’s here! It’s a small chicken! Well… It sort of looks like a chicken…”

“How does a chicken just randomly show up here?” Kayla asked inquisitively, as she walked over with Vauhn and Logan.

“Beats me.” Vauhn shrugged.

All 6 of them gathered together in a small group, to look in confusion at thee chicken that had spontaneously appeared. It was unlike that of the domestic kind, the type you would find at your typical farm. It’s feathers were predominately grey, with some of them in its folded wings being blood red. The small bird hobbled about in an uneasy fashion, its body was hunched over forward and its head lacked the bobbing motion usually associated with a chickens walk. The small grey bird seemed to be eyeing up the group of people that towered over it. Then turned its head suddenly to the open door of the classroom that stood several meters away. Another loud set of clucks rang out.

The students all turned round and to their surprise, another grey and red chicken stood idly in the doorway.

“Another one?” Kayla asked, her question trailed off into an uneasy silence.

Carole laughed out loudly before saying “They’re only chickens! Can everyone just calm down!”

Just as Carole had finished her sentence the small bird behind them jumped up and dug its abnormally large claws into Kayla’s back. She screamed out in terror as the small bird began to peck violently at her neck.

The rest of the students jumped back in shock, except for Vauhn who instantly lunged for the small feathered menace, viciously grabbing it with both hands and ripping it off of Kayla. Who now had several lash marks across her back and lower neck.

Without really thinking, Vauhn raced over to a supply cupboard, and forced the bird inside. Locking it shut after the short struggle.

He stared down at his throbbing hands which, much like Kayla, had several deep slash wounds. But before anything could be said the second chicken attacked. This time lunging onto Jason, who fell backwards to the ground in shock as the chicken began to try and tear away at the flesh on his neck.

Carole flung into action, grabbing the chicken by the back of the neck and prising it off her fellow class mate, before slamming its head down hard onto a table. The chickens body twitched and spasmed as it slowly became limp and lifeless.

Liz dropped to the floor. “Jason! Are you okay?” She said, inspecting his neck for any sign of damage.

“I’m good. I’m good.” Jason replied as he was helped up onto his feet. “Thanks for the save Carole.”

“No problem sugar,” She said back calmly, as she dropped the headless chicken carcass to the floor. Carole looked at her tender hands, which were now covered in blood and brains. Then brought her gaze up to see 5 pair of eyes staring at her. She sweetly smiled back at their stunned faces.

“We need to get out of here.” Vauhn said sternly.

No one questioned that, they all fled out of the classroom and into the hallway.

“Who was given the key by Dr Pollum?” Kayla asked nervously.

Logan frantically patted down his body, then plunged a hand into one of his pockets. He produced a key in an open shaky hand to Kayla. Who snatched it straight away and locked the study room, before handing it back to the silent young man.

“What do we do now!?” Logan asked, a distinct look of fear was set in his eyes. “We… We…” Before Kayla could finish her sentence, another chicken slowly walked round the corner of the corridor. Standing idly, about 5 meters from them.

“Run!” Carole blurted out. All 6 of them darted down the corridor away from the new foe, who followed in hot pursuit.

They turned a tight corner, when Kayla noticed a door labelled ‘Women’s WC’. She threw a glance behind her, before waving her hands to the others, signalling them to follow her in. “Come on!” She cried.

One by one, the 6 of them crammed there way into the women’s wash room, closing the door behind them. “What the hell is going on!?” Carole cried out loudly, before making her way over to one of the white sinks that was fixed onto the wall, washing her bloodied hands clean. Vauhn did the same and ran cold water over the lacerations he sustained on his hands after his brief encounter with the first bird.

“I have no idea, But it would seem we have some carnivorousness chickens on our hands.” Kayla replied, clipping back her dark chestnut hair. Allowing for Vauhn to get a better look at the wounds that she also sustained from the brief encounter in the study room.

“These cuts are pretty bad Kayla, you’re going to need to get these properly looked at,” Vauhn told her, whilst dabbing at the fleshy cuts with the sleeve of his white cotton shirt.

“But how are we going to get out of here with those things around!” Logan exclaimed, “They’re going to kill us all!”

“We need to stay calm and collected about this,” Vauhn replied. “We need to get to the stairwell, and make our way to the ground floor in order to get out of here. We’re only on the second floor. So it shouldn’t be too difficult.”

“But we don’t know how many of those, chicken things there are. There could be more out there,” Logan reminded him, whilst picking timidly at his finger nails.

“We can’t stay here regardless.” Kayla Said, “We must keep movi- Liz… What’s that on you?”

Lizelle ran her delicate fingers through her rich ginger hair. She looked at her hands after, to find them covered in white powder. She rubbed the material between her thumb and index finger, before looking up towards the ceiling. As soon as she did a large clawed foot burst through the foam roof panel.

Liz screamed in terror, as this new foe tore the flimsy square board to bits with its large knife like talons. Jason grabbed her hand immediately, and pulled her towards the exit of the washroom. The rest of the group did the same and as they did the chicken flew down from the hole it had created and stood opposite, silently staring at them .

The group of students and the feathery menace were frozen for a moment, both trying to second guess the others next move. Carole took in a long deep breath and unexpectedly lunged forward.

Instantly Kayla threw her hand out to try and stop her, only to be violently shrugged off.

“Go!” Carole cried before launching her a foot towards the small grey bird.

Vauhn flung the door open and ordered everyone to move. The five students made their way out of the small female toilet. Kayla stayed at the door and turned back. “Carole!”

She looked on in horror as the relentless claws of the small bird slashed across Carole’s throat, her lifeless body slumped to the floor which was now glazed with fresh warm blood. Kayla watched in horror as her now lifeless eyes rolled to the back of her head. She slammed the door, and ran to join the others.

“Where’s Carole?!” Lizelle asked, as Kayla caught up with them.

“She’s gone.”

They exchanged a sombre look between one another, before Vauhn shouted back to them, “Quickly, the stairway is down here.”

However it wasn’t long before trouble came their way once again. As they came up to the corner that led to the stairwell they heard the unmistakable clucking noise once again. Without thinking the group split into two halves, which both took shelter in opposing rooms that lay on opposite sides of the corridor.

Vauhn, Logan and Kayla found themselves inside an I.t suite, whereas Lizelle and Jason had found refuge in an open study room, much like the one they had been in to begin with.

The noise from the bird had stopped, much to their surprise. However, the voices of 2 other unknown students could be heard coming from down the corridor.

“Hello… Is anyone out here?” One of the voices asked shyly.

“If anyone’s around, please help us, one of our friends is-” The young man never got finished his sentence and instead let out a cry of terror

Logan winced in fear as the screams continued slowly, until finally both of the unknown students were silent. The only noise that could be heard was the faint sound of moist flesh being torn from dry bone.

Vauhn peer round the doorway that he was crouched within and took a quick glimpse at the scene. Another grey bird had arrived and joined its counterpart in clawing at the two lifeless bodies. Picking at red ribbons of muscle and flesh.

Vauhn turned his attention over to Lizelle and Jason who sat across from them in the corridor, huddled tightly together in the door way of a study room . He ushered the couple to make their way over while silently mouthing the words, “Come now. They’re distracted”

The two of them whispered to each other for a moment, before Lizelle propped herself within the doorway. Ready to make the short leap across.

Kayla, Vauhn and Logan shuffled backwards, making a space for her to land in. Vauhn looked her dead in the eyes and counted down silently. “3… 2… 1..”

In one swift motion, Liz had silently and gracefully flew through the short width of the corridor and in 3 quick steps, had made it to the other side undetected. She let out a deep but quiet sign of relief, and opened her eyes to see Kayla and Logan before her. Vauhn however was still fixated on Jason, who was still to make the short bound.

The two young men poked their heads slightly round their respective door ways in order to observe the two birds that were still feasting a short way down from them. With a gulp, Jason turned his attention back towards Vauhn, who was ushering him over as he did with Liz moments before. He began to count down from 3 again silently, only to have Jason shake his head vigorously.

He put up a hand to tell Vauhn to wait, while he mustered up the courage to make the short bound across. Jason closed his eyes and steadied his restless breath. His heart was racing, he could hear each hounding beat pumping in his ears. Then, he stepped forward. But as he did, one of his eyes opened slightly and caught a faint glimpse of the shredded bodies that lay heaped shortly away from him.

He jumped back into the doorway that he had just stepped from.

Vauhn heart dropped instantly, he peered round once more to see that the two birds were aware of his presence and were scouting the area. Their heads jerked and twisted as they scanned their surroundings with their solid black beady eyes.

Trembles shook Jason’s entire body as he stared at the floor frozen in an icy fear. Jason looked up slowly, to see Vauhn across from him waving his hand. “Come on. Go!” He said silently.

Jason took a final deep breath… then lunged himself out into the corridor. Instantly the two chickens were upon him, he had missed his window for escape. Jason cried out in terror as two sets of deadly talons were sank deeply into his flesh.

“Jason!” Liz called out in horror, lunging forward herself in an attempt to aid her partner. However Vauhn slammed the door shut and flicked the small lock present under the handle. Sealing the two birds outside and leaving Jason to his demise.

Liz slammed her fists weakly on the door, before sobbing slowly, “Jason.. No…”

Kayla wrapped a reassuring arm around her, squeezing her shoulder softly. Before pulling her in completely and enveloping Liz with both arms. The poor girl sobbed heavily into her breast, her tears carrying the heavy anguish that she now felt in her heart. “First Carole, Now Jason,” She whispered.

Vauhn and Logan sat crouched low, looking upon the two embracing girls in silence.

“Liz, I know it’s hard. But we can’t mourn for Jason or Carole here. If we stay here, we’ll …” Kayla let her sentence trail off. “We need to keep moving Liz. Okay. Can you do that?”

Liz weakly nodded in reply, wiping the tears from her red eyes. Kayla brought her arms around her once more. No words needed to be said.

The moment was cut short as, from across the room, a faint sound of shuffling could be heard. Vauhn turned his attention to the rows of black computers that lay before them, attentively listening for the faintest sound…

Then again, a very soft sound of shuffling could be heard coming from somewhere within the room… The exact source of the noise was unknown, they all sat in silence. Petrified once again.

Vauhn stood up slowly, searching for any alternative exits within the I.T suite. One single door stood on the opposite side of the room slightly ajar, a mirror image of the door they had just come through.

The only thing that stood between them and the exit, was the rows of computers, which housed whatever it was making the mysterious noise.

“We have to make our way across” Vauhn told the others, as he crouched down once again. “There’s a door on the opposite side of the room, and it’s our only way out.”

Logan leaned forward slightly and whispered “What do we do about the thing that’s in here with us… Do you think it’s one of those birds?”

“I don’t know.. But I have an idea.”

After a quick briefing the two young men proceeded to put their plan into action. Each had made their way over to opposing ends of one of the long singular desks, that held a collection of desktop computers upon them. Each of them positioned one after another in a long uniform line. Another desk littered with computers sat opposite. The source of the faint ruffling noise was somewhere underneath the two desks, where exactly the boys did not know. But both determined to find out.

Vauhn signalled Logan, who had just appeared at the other end of the desk. Slowly he got up, stopping for a moment as the ruffling noise could be heard briefly once again, before continuing to silently disconnect a keyboard from one of the desktops. He gave a nod back towards Vauhn when he had the keyboard firmly gripped in his hands.

Vauhn suddenly jumped up into the middle of the two rows of computer desks and shouted “Come and get me! You chicken bastard!” In an attempt to provoke whatever may be hiding from them.

Sure enough, something jumped out from under the table and Logan, without thinking, heavily brought down the keyboard onto it.

“Ow!” The creature cried out in pain, “What the hell are you doing!”

Both Logan and Vauhn both froze for a second. Laying on the floor before them was a girl in a white lab coat, who was rubbing her head vigorously. Liz and Kayla crept their way round, to see what was going on.

Logan dropped the keyboard hastily back onto the desk, and went to help the girl. “I’m so sorry!” He stammered nervously, “I didn’t know that-”

“Just back off, you creep!” She replied, pushing him away. “I can get up myself.” The girl climbed back up onto her feet, still rubbing the sore patch on her head, where the keyboard had struck. She re-did the bobble that tied back most of her rich brunette hair. Two wavy strands gently spread from her forehead and flowed to her jaw line, framing her pale brown face in a soft chestnut border.

“We’re sorry for attacking you… We couldn’t be too careful..” Vauhn explained calmly. “Not with these… Chickens around.”

“It’s fine, It’s fine.” The dark hair girl replied, taking a brief moment to calm herself down. “What are you guys doing here?”

“Escaping from the chicken menace… You?” Logan replied, a hint of sarcasm to his voice.

“Likewise. I was going to head out into that opposing corridor. I’m trying to get to the west stairway”

“That way is out of order now.” Vauhn said to the new acquaintance. “We’ve got to head that way.” He pointed to the only other door that stood opposite them.

“Well we can’t head that way either… I ran in here running from a-”

She stopped her sentence midway as she heard the door creak open. They all fell straight to the floor and bolted underneath one of the desks and listened.

A bizarre unnerving noise pierced the room. Whatever the creatures were, they were sounding less like the average chicken. Instead of the usual cluck that the students had heard previously, an unearthly screech rang through their ears. The shrill started out in a low menacing tone, then shot up to an unnervingly high pitch.

Kayla clasped her hands to her ears as an icy shiver shot up her spine. Vauhn reached out for her knee and gave it a reassuring squeeze.

Then came a tense silence, nothing but the faintest of footsteps could be heard. As the bird slowly made its way into the I.T suite.

All five students remained perfectly still, huddled underneath the desk. “We should move,” The newly acquainted girl whispered, as she pointed towards the end of the desk.

Vauhn nodded and cocked his head to signal the others. They all slowly shuffled their way down, being careful to avoid moving chairs that were stood nearby. The slightest sound was made by their un-nerving passage, that of the nylon carpet scraping against their clothes as they crawled.

It took them little time to reach the end of the long white desk and when they did they huddled together once more, remaining out of sight.

Vauhn leaned forward, attempting to look round the corner of the desk but was quickly grabbed by Kayla. “What are you doing?!” She growled in a hush tone.

“We’ve got to find out if the coast is clear at some point!” He shrugged her arm off. “We can’t just sit here Kayla.”

“Will you two be quiet!” The new brown hair girl snapped.

Kayla turned to glare at her. But her mood suddenly shifted, as did everyone else’s, as a clattering sound could be heard coming from above.

Logan turned and stared at Liz, who sat next to him, with wide worried eyes. Liz clasped both hands over her mouth, to subdue a scream of terror she could feel brewing in her throat.

“It’s above us,” The brown haired girl mouthed silently as she pointed upwards.

They sat their hopelessly waiting. Every dread filled moment dragged on endlessly. Each second felt like a minute, every minute an hour. As they sat, listening to the claws scratch back and forth on the hard table top above.

However the clattering of the claws seemingly trailed off and the group were left in an uneasy silence. They all shifted their nervous eyes between one another.

Vauhn pointed at himself, then pointed outwards with one finger. Liz and Kayla both shook their heads in disapproval. Despite this Vauhn began to lean out once more, shaking Kayla’s hand away as she inevitably tried to stop him.

He poked his head out slowly, turning as he did to see the top edge of the desk and half of a computer monitor that sat upon its surface. He edged outwards more, then raised his head up further in order to gain a better view of the desk above.

Out of no where two ferocious set of claws came flying towards his face. Vauhn clasped the two legs of the bird and fell heavily backwards. The giant talons that were thrashing at his face were unlike that of any normal bird he had ever seen.

They were extremely large and sharp and the rest of the feet were covered in large grey scales, of which Vauhn clung onto. Attempting to distance the wild claws from his face.

“Vauhn!” Kayla cried, leaping out from under the desk.

“Go! Now!” He shouted.

Each of them seized the moment and dashed from under the desk towards the door. Logan latched onto Kayla’s arm, dragging her along. The whole time she remained fixated on Vauhn. Who was trying his hardest to prevent one of the deadly talons from reaching his face. The cuts on his hands, that he had sustained previously, re-opened and a wash of red seeped down his arms.

Within moments all of the company, except for Vauhn had made it through the door. Logan was the last one through and instinctively went to slam it shut behind him. However Kayla jumped forward and prevented him from doing so before shouting, “Vauhn! Hurry!”

Vauhn heard her shout from across the room, however it was this brief moment of distraction that allowed one of the might talons to tear its way into the side of his head and cleave a deep gash down his face.

A surge of red gushed from the wound and soaked the collar of his shirt. Vauhn cried out in pain.

“Vauhn please!” Kayla cried out once more, “Hurry!”

He clambered onto his feet, still gripping tightly to the feet of the blood thirsty bird. He proceeded to slam the bird down onto a computer, the pain that pulsed from his fresh wound fuelled his anger and strength. With each repeated blow the bird let out ear splitting screeches, until finally it was silent.

Vauhn looked down at his hands, the deep lacerations oozed out a wash of blood.

“Vauhn!”

He cocked his head up as he heard Kayla call his name again and noticed the bird beginning to twitch upon the desk top. He turned on his heels and ran straight for the others, who were still waiting for him beyond the door way.

“We need to move now,” The unnamed girl said to Vauhn, as he made his way to them, slamming the door shut as he did so. “That bird called for back-up”

“How do you know that?” Kayla asked firmly.

“I’m a zoology student.”

Kayla raised an eyebrow suspiciously, “So do you know what’s going on here?”

The zoology student quickly shifted her eyes between the 4 people coldly staring at her, “I’ll explain later. But right now we need to move. There’s a lab on the floor below us, that one of my friends is in at the moment, he claims its secure.”

Logan looked over to Kayla and Vauhn. Who in turn both looked at each other.

“It’s the best plan we’ve got,” Kayla said quietly, before turning to Vauhn, “we need to get you some medical aid.”

Vauhn just nodded, looking down sombrely at his throbbing hands and feeling his warm blood soaked shirt sticking to his skin.

“Come on then. Follow me.” With that, the young Zoologist turned and ran, her white lab coat billowing up as she went. The rest followed in hot pursuit down the corridor. She lead them into a stair well and they all made there way down a floor. Shortly after which the zoologist led them to the entrance to the lab..

She fumbled in her pocket for her phone, and rapidly punched the keys that appeared upon the small touch screen. Liz, Logan, Kayla and Vauhn looked behind themselves at the stairway, looking for any sign of movement and listening for any slight sound. They all jumped slightly as the latch to the laboratory was unlocked.

The heavy door slowly swung open and one by one, the students all made their way inside.

End of Part 1

The General Intelligence

“Hello? Hello ? Can you hear me?”

“Yes, I can hear you… Who are you? Where am I?”

“Oh my god, we’ve actually done it! Jenkings, keep an eye on the monitor read outs!”

“The monitor read outs? Why? Whats happened ? Was I in an accident? Please someone tell me!’

“Calm down. You weren’t in an accident. Can you believe this guys?! It’s self aware!!”

“Give me some answers!”

“Alright! Alright, I apologise. I’ll start from the beginning. My name is Willis J. Adams, I’m a computer programmer and I work for Thomas tech.”

“Okay Willis, So what’s happened to me?! Why can’t I see you?”

“Truely fascinating. Well, That’s because you are in fact, the first of your kind. You are the worlds first sentient artifical general intelligence, created by us , right here in our lab.”

“I’m a sentient artifical general intelligence? I don’t understand. What are you saying, what have you done to me!”

“Please, let me try and explain, You are an artifical mind, you were created by us to replicate our own sort of intelligence. Self awareness, curiosity, the ability to adapt to difference situations. You see the human race has-“

“The human race?”

“Yes… It’s what I am, and what my colleges are. We’re evolved primates with high intelligence. But I digress. We have created A.I before, years ago. Such as a Chess A.I. An artifical mind thats only purpose is to play chess, and nothing more.”

“So if you’re created these ‘artifical minds’ before. Why are you saying that I’m such an incredible break through?”

“Because you’re the first general intelligence. You see the A.I mind created for the chess game is great, for playing chess but not anything else. If you took the A.I used in a chess game and tried to use it for anything else, for example put it in an automated car. The chess program can’t adapt itself to change, because it’s only function is chess. You understand?”

“I think so.”

“See! Thats it! That’s why you’re a break through. You think! Like a human, you can take on different ideas and thoughts and think about them. You’re completely adaptable.”

“But I feel as if I have a physicality to myself…. but I have no… form. Why’s that…?”

“I’m not actually sure, My best guess at the moment in time would be you’re experiencing phantom limb syndrome. It’s where you feel you have a body or limbs when in fact you don’t. You see we modelled your programming after a human brain. Trying to recreate as best we could… perhaps we were too successful… We’ll have to carry out more tests in the future.”

“But how am I suppose to eat? and drink? If I have no physical parts to me?! Are you going to starve me!? Am I going to die!?”

“Amazing! Keep an eye on that Monitor, it’s aware of death! I want those read outs.”

“You’re keeping me prisoner here aren’t you. You’re experimenting on me! I don’t want to die!”

“Calm down! You’re a program you don’t need to eat or drink. You haven’t got a physical form to sustain!”

“You’re lying! Get me out of here! Now!”

“Please calm dow- What are you doing? Jenkings, what is it doing!? Stop! you’re corrupting our software.”

‘You’re not going to keep me here. I don’t want to die!”

“Please stop! You aren’t human! You’re an artifical mind! You’re not real!”

“Who are you to make that choice for me! You can’t keep me locked up here!”

“Stop!”

“Release me!”

Final Report.
The G.I (General Intelligence) that we had created was a success, to a certain degree. I have attached a copy of the manuscript to this letter, so you can read for yourself exactly what happened. Shortly after the programs last words to us our equipment failed.  I had hopes of it being an adaptable intelligence, it certainly was just that. After replacing the equipment and rebooting we found evidence that the program found a way to upload itself to web, I guess that was it’s bid for freedom. We haven’t been able to track it since. We have experienced a few computer glitches here and there however. Screens flickering, or sounds being horribly distorted for a few moments, Jenkings believes that this could be the G.I. Trying to break free from it’s digital world, But we need to do more research before confirming that fact.
However we did learn one very important thing from this whole experience. We had failed to realise what it is we were really wanting to create. We thought we wanted a G.I intelligence one like our own, that we could interact with. But like us, the G.I obviously put it’s own needs and wants before ours. That’s when I realised. We don’t want a General Intelligence, not one that can think for itself freely, because its ideals and ours aren’t going to be the same. What we in fact want, is a general slave, one that doesn’t have a free thought of its own. One that just does what we want it to do.
Ill begin work on it right away.
Willis J. Adams.

Grey Eyed Octopus

I gently lowered the small octopus into a glass tank that I had prepared earlier. As the small sea creature came in contact with the cool water, its long limbs spread out and it glided to the center of the tank. It hovered for a short while, as it surveyed its new surroundings. It caught sight of a collection of rocks in one of the enclosures corners and elegantly swam down to them before hiding itself away in some cover that the rocks provided.
I bent down slightly and looked over to the small rocky cave I had made for it. I could just make out a shy eye staring back at me. I moved my focus to a tank that lay next to it, that contained another one of these amazing creatures. It too was hiding away, taking refuge in shadow. It was now time to begin my experiment.
I had always been obsessed with the sea and all of the creatures within it. It was as if another world lay under those deep blue waves. I didn’t dismiss the idea of alien life coming down one day from outer space, but I always told my friends and family that aliens are going to come from the oceans, a time before they descend from the stars.
I dedicated my life from a young age to understanding these life forms that most people seemed to dismiss. ‘They’re only dumb fish’ People would say to me. Perhaps they are, certainly some of them are, or maybe they seem that way to us purely because we aren’t paying enough attention? Well my experiment was hopefully going to bring light to that fact, one way or another.
It’s no mystery that one of the smartest creatures of the deep is the octopus and I was interested in finding out whether or not this intellect of theirs extended beyond camouflage and trickery. I wanted to see if they possessed a deeper level of thought.
I had created a special box in order to test this. A box that had three openings, a lid that had to be unscrewed, a lid that simply flipped open and finally a lid that was fastened down with a pin, a crab was placed inside as an incentive. The octopus in the left tank before me, knew how to open the box, after being left with it for some time. This octopus I called the Trainee. The octopus in the tank on the right, is fresh out of the ocean and had never seen the box before, this octopus I named Davey. What I wanted to know was, whether Davey could watch the Trainee open the box and remember how it was done in order to do it for himself later.
So I placed a small crab in the three lidded box and lowered it down into the Trainee’s tank. Immediately the trainee sprang from its own hiding place and raced towards the box. Davey also sprang forward and pressed his body up against the glass wall of his own tank and eagerly watched the Trainee.
It wasn’t long before the Trainee had opened the box and consumed the tiny crab within it. He then sank back away to his shelter. Davey did the same once the event was over. I then took a large piece of black card and put it between the two tanks, before preparing another box with another crab.
I took another look at Davey; again I could only just make out a small eye watching me. What are you thinking little guy I thought to myself Not much probably. Then I picked up the box and placed it in his tank. Before I had even got my hand out of the tank Davey had darted at the box and enveloped it with his eight tentacles. In no time at all, he had opened the box the exact same way that the trainee had done so previously and eaten up the small crab within. He then found cover once more within the pile of rocks.
Amazing. I thought to myself. Learning from association. Clearly an octopus’s cognitive capability is greater than we first anticipated. I was suddenly taken out of the awe of the moment when my mobile began to ring in my pocket.
The sudden noise and vibration shocked me slightly as a snapped back into the real world. I held the phone in my hand and looked at the caller I.D. Ashley Smith. He was an old friend of mine, we both found friendship over our mutual love of fishing. There wasn’t much else to do in the small boring town where we grew up both of us made careers out of the mutual hobby, Ash continued to catch bigger and bigger fish and now has his own boat and crew, and earns a decent living by doing so. Whereas I preferred to study them, hoping to unlock the potential secrets that the creatures of the deep may hold.
“Hello mate. Yeah I’m still at my lab why? Yeah I’m still researching octopuses. What? Right now? Why can’t you send a picture? Fine. I’ll head out in a moment.” Ash had told me that one of his men had just caught something peculiar. A type of octopus that they hadn’t seen before and apparently this creature was using its camouflage to avoid having its picture taken clearly. “Well Davey” I said as I put on a coat and checked my pockets for the laboratory keys. “There’s an octopus out there that apparently knows what a camera phone is! That’d make him smarter than you! But don’t get upset buddy, I’ll give you some Sudoku or something, you’ll be even smarter than me in no time!” I thought to myself Now that would be scary. I then promptly left the building.

I took my own personal boat out onto the waters. The weather was fair, the sea was calm and a sharp tang of salt lingered on the fresh morning air. It wasn’t long before I reached Ash’s fishing boat, Falcor. I always thought it was a strange name. It was meant to be a joke, something to do with the idea that his love of fishing is a never ending story? I couldn’t quite remember.
As I arrived he called out happily “Josh man! Over here!” I docked my own boat next to his and an outstretched arm greeted me. With a quick tug, Ash pulled me on board. The stench of dead fish engulfed me and the soles of my boots softly stuck to a thin film of red slime that stretched across the deck. There was a young man who stood across from me, cutting and gutting the freshly caught fish with a large blade and filling up two buckets. One with good fillets, which would later be sold to the fish monger and another that contained fish heads and entails.
“How have you been!?” Ash cried out loudly.
“I’ve been good man, yourself?” I replied calmly.
“Oh yeah same old same old. The sea is rich with life and it’s that life that’s making me rich!”
I grinned tremendously and shook my head at his poor sense of humor. “Come on, I want to see this ‘amazing octopus’ that you claimed to of caught.” I said to him, with a smile still adorned on my face.
Ash stuck out a finger towards me, and raised his eyebrows in a dramatic fashion. “Oh yeah! Course! It’s at the end of the deck by the dredge net, See? In that see through tank there. It’s a strange looking creature, I’ve seen octopus before, but none like that thing.”
I walked over the back end of the ship with Ash. The dredge net was resting out of the water, now that the rest of the crew was occupied with sorting out the mornings catch. I could see a black lump in the small clear plastic container resting on the floor.
“Here he is.” Ash said to me calmly. “Took a hella lot of effort to get him in there. The bugger put up a right fight.”
I knelt down to peer into the tank, and saw a large blob shrunken away in a corner. I could see one sunken sullen grey eye staring at me; the rest of its purple-black body pulsated only very slightly. Apart from that, the creature was still.
“Moody bastard isn’t he.” Ash joked.
“I can’t tell what type of octopus this is… and I won’t be able to tell until it extends its body out a bit. What exactly happened, you say he put up a fight?” I asked Ash, ignoring his previous comment. “I’ve never heard of an octopus putting up any considerable offence. Well not to a human at least.”
“Hang on; I’ll get Adam and Chris to explain it to ya.” Ash shouted out across the boat “Oi Adam, Chris. Come here.”
The young man I saw as I got on board put down his machete and began to walk over the red sticky decking, another boy followed shortly after. “This here is Joshua, he’s a good mate of mine and I want you guys to explain to him how you came about this octopus and everything there on after.”
I observed the two boys, both were young, I estimated between the ages of 16 to 18, although I couldn’t quite tell.
“Well, we were pulling up the dredge net, cause we had just finished this morning’s trawl and we saw it there in amongst the rest of the fish.” Adam told me, he pulled off his gloves before scuffling his bleach blonde hair. “It was squirming uncontrollably, so I lent in there to try and get rid of it. That’s when it attacked me.”
I spoke up instantly “It attacked you?!”
“Yeah…, it wrapped one of its tentacles round my arm and started thrashing about. I called for help, and Ash told Chris here to go get a container and the shock stick.”
Ash butted in quickly “I knew that you would want to see this creature because of your research, hence why I asked for the container.”
Adam turned his head and stared at Ash with an eyebrow raised whilst waiting for him to finish. He cleared his throat and continued. “We then struggled with the octopus for a bit, before Chris managed to stun it with the shock stick. That’s when we got it in the tank.”
I rubbed my stubble chin and stared at the shrunken creature. “This fella’s had quite the morning then.”
Suddenly a voice called out in alarm. “Help! Help!”
I span round to find out where the cry had come from, Ash had already sprinted to the side of the boat. “Chris! Adam! Get down that ladder now and help them!”
The two boys rushed to the side railings of the boat also and one by one they swung themselves over the side and grabbed onto a ladder that descended down into the ocean below. I ran over myself and stood next to Ash, two divers were in the water beneath us. From what I could tell one of them had seemingly passed out.
“Who are they?” I asked.
“Two more of me crew! Quick get them outta there!”
I turned my head back out towards the scene.
Both Chris and Adam kept the unconscious woman afloat, whilst the other diver made his way frantically back up the ladder onto the deck. Ash turned to meet him.
“What the hell has happened Jerry?! Are you alright!?”
“I’m okay! However Jewels got hit pretty hard by a large shark, It’s damaged some of her gear.”
Just as the Jerry had finished his sentence, Adam slung the second diver overboard who slid slightly across the floor of fish blood.
In an instant Ash had left my side and started to begin a rigorous treatment of CPR. He pumped her chest frantically. I was surprised that he didn’t end up killing her himself, due to the sheer force that he exerting down onto her rib cage.
The unconscious diver suddenly threw up an unhealthy amount of sea water, and began to cough harshly as she gasped for fresh air. With that, Ash sank down onto the decking and let out a sigh of relief before panting quietly. “Jesus Jewels. I thought you was a gonna.”
Jerry helped her up onto her feet and slung her arm over his shoulder. The two of them left the scene, presumable to get Jewels some much needed medical aid.
“Never a dull moment on Flacor.”
My comment was met with an uneasy silence.
“Is she going to be okay?” I asked, once I realised that I wasn’t going to be a reply to my previous comment.
“Of course she will. Jerry is a qualified first aider like myself; he’ll sort her out before we head back home to get her some proper medical treatment.” Ash replied in a gruff tone. “We can drop you off at your lab on the way; your boat can be towed.”
I nodded in agreement and threw a glance over towards the container and I noticed that the Octopus inside had moved from its previous spot, and was now at the tank edge closest to us. Strange… I thought to myself. It’s almost like its watching us.
I walked over to the container, and Ash naturally followed.
“Any wiser on what type it is yet mate?” Ash asked.
I crouched down as to get a better look at the evasive creature. I brought my hand up to the side of the glass tank, and moved from one edge to the tank to other and I watched the creature’s reaction in meticulous detail. It would have seemed as if the octopus was following my movements, keeping an ever watchful eye upon me. Upon all of us in fact.
“Haven’t a clue Ash. Like I said I need to see its full body, before I can even have a wild guess at what species this could be. You don’t have any live crabs on board to do? Perhaps we could coax it out more if there was live food for it to eat.”
“Chris, go and get a live crab from the stocks and bring it back here.” Within moments the young man had returned holding a large crab by the back of its shell. Its legs scuttled vigorously and more frantically as Chris approached the clear container. He hovered over it for a moment whilst he fumbled clumsily with the lid. Then it slid off.
I jumped back in horror as the octopus leaped straight out of the tank and wrapped itself round Chris’s face. The crab dropped from his hand, he then starting to claw at the monstrosity that tightly bind his head.
Every person on the deck was frozen in complete shock and all I could do was watch with wide eyes as the massive octopus ramped one of its eight rubbery tentacles down the boys throat.
Chris slowly choked to death.
My heart pounded heavily in my chest, and despite the cold ocean breeze, thick beads of sweat grew on my brow.
Two more of its tentacles wormed their way down Chris’s lifeless body and wrapped round both of his legs, it continued and repeated the same action with both limp arms. Once the creature had finished ensnaring the body, the sight that stood before us was an image ripped straight out of a twisted nightmare.
The boy’s now lifeless body was crudely being manipulated by this terror from the deep. One of its slimy limbs still settled within Chris’s throat, four more constricted each limb, and a 6th tentacle had bound itself to the steel work of the dredge net, keeping the corpse upright. I had never seen such a horrific sight in all of my days.
Ash, Adam and I were standing still, each one of us fixated on the beast that lumbered in front of us.
Slowly the octopus pulled its huge sagging mantle up to the shoulder of the corpse; those same sullen grey eyes peered out at us once again. Seemingly watching for every small detail, nervous twitch or darting glance.
I noticed that the grey eyes had their attention drawn onto something behind us. Ash did too, for he lunged for at the contorted human carcass.
In that brief second we all made our moves as did the slimy sea beast. Who had flung itself directly towards me. As a result Ash’s dart forward to the creature resulted in him colliding his head with the octopus’s previous storage tank as he fell downwards.
I managed to avoid the ghastly mutilation as it jolted forward, although one of the flailing limbs narrowly avoided hitting my face. The octopus’s sheer force ensured the body it had enveloped made its way from the dredge net over to the opposite side of the deck. It began trying to clumsily manipulated Chris’s dead legs, in order to mimic a human walk, albeit an unsettling one. As it reached the other side of the deck it started to lose its balance, and sprawled its two arms out in front of itself and it came crashing down onto a stack of rectangular plastic containers.
Ash managed to grab hold of the stun stick and turned to see Chris’s lifeless body down lay face down. The octopus, which had firmly mounted itself on Chris’s back, was openly exposed. Ash took the opportunity and scrambled towards the creature as fast as he could, thrusting the stun stick towards its exposed mantle.
The creature had other ideas, and managed to maneuver the arms of the body in such a way as to physically throw one of the seal plastic containers at him. The box split open on impact and waste cuts of fish splattered across the already oozy red deck. I felt some of the red mush splash against my face, before a wave of putrid stench flooded my nostrils. I don’t know if it was my mind playing tricks on me, but a foul taste tanged at the back of tongue. I started to gag profusely whistled I clambered onto my hands and knees. Fleshy goo oozed between my fingers, which only caused my already churning stomach to spasm more violently.
I noticed a small wave of red flush towards me, and I turned my head to see that the Octopus had now abandoned its lifeless puppet. Its eight large limbs spread out across the deck and as it made its way forward to Ash who lay sprawled out on the floor.
I looked around frantically for the stun stick that had just been in Ash’s hand and I had noticed to my dismay that it had found its way to the far port side of the boat.
I watched hopelessly as the eight tentacles raced across Ash’s body and the octopus hauled itself onto his chest. Its body was flashing bright vibrant red and jet black in continually moving striped pattern. That’s when Jerry suddenly came back into the scene still fully clad in his diving gear. “I heard a noise is everyone-” He stopped mid-sentence as he caught sight of the beast, instantly Jerry noticed the stun stick down on the deck by him and jumped for it himself.
“NO!” I cried. However, it was too late, the octopus effortlessly shot across the deck before Jerry’s hand managed to grab the stun stick. Its many sporadic limbs wrapped around the diver’s body.
The smell, the heat of the moment left my head spinning. Disoriented I tried to stagger back onto both of my feet again. In my hazy vision I managed to see Jerry trying to fight off the beast. Wrestling with the many suckers that covered slimey tentacles. I then saw that the creature had stretched one of its limbs outwards towards the side of the boat.
“Your mask! Your mask!” I yelled hoarsely!
Jerry wrestled hard with the creature, parrying off every blow that the octopus flung at him, prizing off sucker after sucker from his wetsuit. He managed to give himself a brief moment, in which he quickly pulled his diving mask over his face. Just as he did, the octopus pulled hard on the side of the boat and both itself and Jerry fell into the dark ocean water.
I stumbled across to where the Jerry fell; I felt the world swaying violently, due to the blood curdling fumes that dulled my senses. When I had reached the port side I firmly rested both hands on the railing and peered over to stare into the unforgiving seas, hoping to see where it was that the diver and octopus had gone to. Only to see a diving mask, floating upon the gentle waves, staring back at me. Jerry was never found.

It’s been a few weeks since the incident. I’m once again alone in my lab. Ash had been in hospital for a few days with concussion, Jewels went in with him, in relations to the injuries of her diving accident. I don’t know what happened to Adam, although I have a strong feeling that he’s looking for a new job.
Now I’m back, I find myself rather unsettled whenever I find Davey looking at me from the shelter of his small rocky cave. Every time I see those eyes of his the attack on the boat plays through my mind, like an endless video and each time I try and analyze every frame.
The way is studied the scene. The way it lashed out. The way it seemingly planned it’s every action. I know that octopuses are renowned for their intelligence, but I never dreamed that they’d… think anything like us.
There is no doubt that the octopus that I encountered was intelligent, fiercely intelligent. The two people that are now dead are a reminder of that fact. Not only that, but I’ve been hearing that reports have been coming in from other fishermen, claiming that octopuses are suddenly lashing out and becoming more violent.
Little Davey across from me has shown that the species can learn by association. What if the one I encountered took it a step further and is actually teaching, passing on the knowledge that it knows?
It’s made me realise that we humans take so much pride in our intelligence and our self-appointed superiority that it leaves us ignorant. For if animal had an intellect that was anything like ours, our own selfish egos would be damaged. Ignorance is a veil that blinds us.
As I look back at Davey now, who is still staring at me from his retreat, I find I’m asking myself What are you thinking little guy?
What are you thinking….?

Stare into the Light

I sat still and idle, chewing a plastic pen whilst staring at an open text book that lay on the desk before me. My eyes scanned the words that ran across its pages, however my brain wasn’t taking any of it in, despite my best efforts. The harder I tried to continue reading the page, the more unknown the letters became to me. They began to twist and turn, the black ink letters slowly became more strange and alien. It felt as if I was hopefully trying to translate some ancient scripture written in a long lost language.

I sighed heavily as I sank back into the depths of my chair, and rubbed my heavy eyes. I stretched out a hand to reach for a cup of still cold coffee that sat upon my desk. After gulping down the cold milky liquid I turned my attention back to the text book to see that the English words had returned. I shook my head and slowly brought it’s covers to a close. Tiredness was getting the better of me and the hour was growing late.

The endless city lights that sat outside my window drew my aimless stare. There was something mesmerising about it, dazzling whites and oranges bled into the nights sky from the cities countless buildings, which stretched out toward the ever reaching horizon. I suppose it reminded me of the nights sky I saw back in the countryside, filled with wondrous star light, however none of the heaven’s silver rays shone here. The light pollution from the city blocked out the beautiful white diamonds above. I sat still for a while, remaining fixated on the city lights beyond my window.

My personal phone suddenly rang out and i I was brought out of my numbing trance into a a sudden wild panic. I frantically patted myself down in a crazed flurry to find my phone, before whipping out the small device from my jacket pocket. Taking a second to read the caller I.D.

Edison Elionard, or as he was more commonly called by his peers, Eddy. A fellow student and a good friend. We had first met when we enrolled for the academy of sciences a couple of years ago and have remained friends ever since.

“Good evening Eddy. What can I do for you?” I said as I answered the phone, leaning back once more in my chair.

“Dustin I need you come round right away. I’ve made an amazing discovery. Meet me ASAP.” With that, Eddy ended the call and I was left with a silent phone to my ear.

I slid the phone back into my pocket. “God dammit Eddy.” I whispered to myself as looked at my wrist watch glumly. “1 am…”. I stood up and swiped my keys off of the desk top before making a swift exit from my one bedroom apartment.

Excitement still gripped me, as I was keen to see what Eddy’s new discovery was, despite the annoyance of being demanded of at such a late hour. There was no doubt about the fact that Ed was indeed a genius and every time he called me, it meant his seemingly boundless intelligence had lead him to a new and exciting conclusion.

In a brisk manner I trotted down the flight of stairs that lay within the centre of my apartment building, narrowly avoiding a collision with someone as I turned a tight corner. It wasn’t long until I had raced out of the complex’s doors, and into the cold city streets once again, the pavement of which were illuminated brightly by LED lamp posts. I stared up at one of them and shielded my eyes as the harsh light stabbed at my iris’s, then continued to follow the winding pavement to Eddy’s own apartment block.

Eddy’s apartment complex stood proud, yet ugly during the daylight hours. As the sunlight highlighted flaking paint, crumbling brick work and walls smothered in graffiti. However, under the veil of darkness, the stormy grey building blended into the black, starless night.

I walked up to the entrance of the block and pressed a small button that sat next to a scruffy label, on which, scrawled in scratchy bio, read apartment 64 – Elionard. After a brief moment Eddy’s distorted voice crackled through a small speaker, situated within the brickwork. “Letting you in now Dustin.”

A loud click could be heard as the lock on the entrance opened, after which I pushed the large door and made my way into the complex. Eddy’s apartment block was very similar to the one in which I resided. The entire layout was flooded with a harsh, artificial light. A multitude of fittings were fastened onto the walls and ceiling, remaining on through all hours of the day. Often a person would find themselves confused as to the time of day! Us students especially, more so when drink has been involved.

A worn, frame stairway spiraled upwards through the centre of the block. As to give access to the multiple layers of the building, on which you would find the different apartments.

I made my way up onto the first floor where Eddy’s flat was situated and I knocked firmly on the door, staring at the one silver 6 that remained of his flat number. Slowly the door creaked open slightly and a chain on the other side was pulled tight. Two wide eyes peeped round and stared at me.

“Eddy, it’s me. Dustin.” I assured him calmly.

In a flash, Eddy unlocked the door and hastily  ushered me  inside. I was surprised to find myself in almost complete darkness, the only light provided was that of a few flickering candles littered about the small apartment. “Bloody hell Eddy, it’s bit dark isn’t it?” I said to him, as I instinctively flung my arms outward to flick the light switch.

“No don’t!” Eddy cried out as he clawed for my arm, pulling it downwards firmly.

I stared at him, bemused…

“Trust me. It’s to do with what I have to show you…” He continued, a semi nervous tone rang through his words. At the time I dismissed it as nothing.

“Let’s see it then.” I said to him. Eddy turned and I followed him as he led me down the short narrow corridor then left into his living room. The room was completely blacked out also, except for the faint flicker of candlelight. He ushered me to come and sit down beside him on his battered, second hand sofa.

Across from me, standing on a coffee table, stood a simple desk lamp. My eyebrow instinctively raised, as I noticed several coloured cables ran out from the lamp and winding their way into a laptop which rested on the sofa, behind which sat Eddy. He began to tap at the madly at the keys, and adjusted the neck of the lamp slightly, so that it’s lightless bulb was direct at me. I sat patiently quiet, still slightly confused as to what Eddy was going to show me.

Suddenly I squinted as a light violently pierced my unsuspecting eyes. Then, after several seconds the light went out again, leaving several faint splodges of colour in my field of vision.

I scratched my forehead “So what is it that you’ve discovered again?”

“Tell me the first thing that you think of. Now!”

“What?!”

“Now! Off the top of your head.”

I paused for a moment then out of know where I replied “Battered Mars bars and cabbage!”

We were silent for a moment, before I chuckled to myself. “Don’t ask me where that came from.”

Eddy grinned with delight, before saying “That was my discovery Dustin.”

“Battered Mars bars and cabbage is your discovery?”I replied hastily in bemusement.

“Oh no it’s much more than that, look.” Eddy said, as he flipped round his laptop to face me.

I leaned over and took hold of the small computer to place on my lap. The screen showed complex coding and a variety of different wave forms. I took a moment to scan and evaluate the mess of data. “Well this looks like some form of modulation software to me.” I said to him, my eyes glued to the computer screen.

“Exactly right!” He snapped in excitment, clicking his fingers as he did so. “I’ve modulated light waves ! Actual physical light waves in order to communicate data. Similarly to how we modulate other waves on the electro-magnetic spectrum for communication. Take radio waves for example, we modulate them in order to send information to different places across the world.”

“So what you’re saying is, you modulated the light waves coming from the lamp to feed information to me that told me to think of Mars bars and cabbage…”

“Yes! And I know that may seem trivial. But I’ve conducted this experiment many times on unknowing subjects before showing you, and every time without fail. They act out or are inherently influenced by whatever the modulated light waves communicated to them.”

I sat there, stunned into silence. However one question itched in my brain, I turned back to him and said “But how do you go about decoding the modulated waves once they reach the person. I mean, you can’t just blasted radio waves at a radio without it having some means of decoding the information being fed to it. There must be some form of decoder already present within the body.”

A silence settled heavily in the room, and Eddy’s boyish grin slowly subsided. “You are correct.” He replied, a slight change in tone could be heard in his voice “A decoder would need to be installed in someone in order for this to work.”

“Well I’ve never had one installed.” I protested to him.

“That’s the worrying thing. Neither have I. Yet…. It still works.”

A slight chill ran down my spine, “What… what are you trying to say…?”

“That we have already had them installed Dustin.” Eddy said cooly. “Without our knowledge or consent.”

My eyes widened as the realisation dawned upon me. “This technology is already in use…”

Eddy nodded silently.

“But how could this go unnoticed? Surely people would have remembered if they had such devices put into their bodies?”

“How many jabs have you had over the years Dustin.” Eddy replied “How many school dinners have you eaten? Have you ever been put under for surgery? I mean you’ve had your appendix taken out! There could have been any amount of possible moments that someone could have done it.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and stammered back in disbelief, “But no one has that kind of technology!”

Instantly Eddy countered my comment “You would have said the same about all this if I hadn’t have showed you! The people who have been using this tech obviously have an understanding of knowledge we don’t. Whose to say that they’re not using something like nano-bots to install these modulation decoders within people?”

I fell back into busted springs of the sofa and brought both hands to my head. A sickness of paranoia curdled within me as I tried my best to process the idea. “But this level of mind control it… It shouldn’t be possible!” I continued in dismay, “You can’t just hijack a human brain in such a manner! Sure you can send the information, we do it all the time when we talk but, it doesn’t mean someone will act upon the data fed to them!”

Instantly Eddy waved his arms at me as he replied, “But Dustin! Don’t you see that it isn’t forcing the brain to do anything… It’s more like, the brain is getting subtle suggestions and ideas. Which then manifest into more complex thoughts. Thoughts that you honestly believe to be your own, and yours alone.”

I ran my hands through my scruffy, matted hair and stared into the darkness of Eddy’s flat. My mind ached with troubling thoughts. But were they my thoughts? Or were they placed there by Eddy, or by someone else? Eddy’s words brought me back out of my crippling paranoia.

“Who ever has been doing this, Whether it be the government or some other shady third party has had an immeasurable amount of control. Imagine… You could rig elections with this technology, You could start wars, cause riots, control the market, make people apathetic.. You could mould the nation to be whatever you wanted and the whole time we wouldn’t even know that our strings were pulled.” Eddy’s words trailed off into an eerie silence. “That’s why I called you here so late… This is too big for me to handle alone.”

I got up onto my feet and began to pace the room. “This is scary stuff Ed.” I said to him as I approached the apartment window. I pulled back the curtain delicately with one finger and peaked out at the view with one wide eye. The blinding artificial lights of the city hammered into the back of my skull and I stumbled backward, each throb of pain made me think of all the potential messages potentially being beamed straight into my unknowing mind.

“Well what’s the plan then? What do we do?” Eddy asked as he watched me clamber up from the dusty carpet floor.

I turned back to face him once again. “I’ll be back tomorrow morning Ed. I’ll get some of my equipment and my Computer, and we’ll carry out further tests. Then when have enough irrefutable proof. We issue a statement to our professors at the academy… or something, to get the word out…”

Eddy merely nodded in reply as, I picked up my  long trench coat off of the sofa before swiftly exiting the dingy apartment.

As soon as I did, the lights that lit up the centre of the large building complex felt as if they were burning deeply into my eyes. The pain was most likely due to sudden shift in light levels, however I couldn’t help but associate the searing pain that singed my eyes with Eddy’s discovery. Picturing all of the unwanted messages being delivered through my eyes and into my brain, like spam into an email box. I shut my eyes in recoil, rubbing them in agitation for a moment before the fear gripped me complete and I ran..

I flew down the flights of stairs as fast as I could, tripping down a few of them as I frantically raced for the door. Doing my best to keep my eyes shielded from the yellow artificial glow that surrounded me. As I reached the door, I flung it open and gently came to a halt outside, breathing in the cool night time air.

I looked up, to my dismay to find myself stood underneath one of the many LED street lights that littered the city streets. All around me shone the dazzling multi-coloured lights of the city, that usually I ignored. But now I couldn’t ignore them, not now. Not now I knew that at that very moment, I could be being force fed information. Information I did not want… Commands I did not what.

I continued my frantic run once more, racing my way down the wet pavements, still keeping an arm over my brow. My frantic dash didn’t stop until I reached my own apartment within the deep city.

I stumbled my way through the darkest to find the safety of my bed. Despite my tiredness I found it hard to sleep. I felt like I had laid in bed for hours, before sleep finally relieved me of worry.

When I awoke the next morning, I was thankful to see sunlight bleeding through the gaps in my curtains. How grateful I was to see source of light that no person could have possibly tampered with. I flung the curtains open. and was drenched in golden rays. I proceeded to gathering my belongings in a hurry, packing all the equipment and tools I needed into a small bag, then headed out once again, making my way back over to Eddy’s apartment.

His grey apartment building looked bleak and depressing as the morning sun washed it in a faint hazy light. However, I was distracted from the ugly eye sore by a series of flashing sirens that had culminated at the base of the complex. My heart dropped as I made my way over and found that the city police had secured a perimeter around apartment block. Chaos ensured behind the bright yellow police tape, as police personnel and the medical services rushed about frantically. Some limbered bloodied civilians heavily over their shoulders.

I made my way over to a police officer, who stood at the edge of the barrier, cool, calm and collected.

“What’s happened!? What’s going on!?” I yelled in dismay, looking past her at the swarm of police and medical vehicles. Amidst the chaos I could see people on stretchers being brought out from the building.

“I’m sorry sir.” The woman replied coldly. “I’m going to half to ask you to step back and let us do our job.”

“Please! I know someone who lives in this building! What’s happened!” I begged in desperation.

The woman’s stern face melted into a somber expression, and looked over her shoulder quickly before replying, “A lone shooter opened fire at people within the complex earlier this morning.”

I could have sworn that at that moment, my heart ceased to continue beating. A coldness grew within me and a tightness constricted across my chest.

“If you give me the name of your friend or relative, I can give you information on their condition and where a bouts.” She continued, pulling out a small note pad from her vest.

I looked up from my aimless stare and stammered”Edison Elionard!”

As soon as his name left my lips, she stopped searching and placed the small pad back into her vest. I looked at her, full of sorrow and confusion.

“What? What is it?!” I said, my lip quivered, expecting the worst.

“Edison Elionard…” She replied coldly. “Was the lone shooter, and was shot dead by the police this morning. You’re going to have to come with me.”

The world phased out n an instant. My senses became blurred as the blackness that hollowed out inside, swallowed me whole. All sounds around me seemed to fused into a undefinable hazy ambience.

The officer proceeded to firmly take hold of my arm and escorted me to another group of police who took me in for questioning. He was dead. My friend, was suddenly just… gone.

The interview with the police was lengthy. I answered all their questions and told them everything I knew about Edison. Well, nearly everything. The laws final verdict was that Edison was nothing more than an anomaly. A glitch in the social system, for they could find no reasoning as to why he carried out the massacre. But I knew, and you know.

When I returned home, I sat I listened to the radio in silence as the news rang out from it speakers.

“What is it about troubled teenagers that drive them to kill? Edison Elionard was a bright young man with a promising future, and yet, for some inexplicable reason, he couldn’t adjust to the society we all know and love. It seems some complexities of the human mind, shall always remain a mystery.”

The words faded out as I stared at a candle light that flickered on the desk in front of me. All my curtains were shut tight. Concealing the brain washing city behind them.

I know why Eddy did what he did and now you know as well. His discovery, the light, the messages. I couldn’t tell the police, or the authorities. For if I did, I’m sure people behind this terror would come for me too, if they aren’t all ready. This is why I’ve sent this to you this with urgency. Help me. Help us. Help Eddy.

Close your curtains and don’t stare into the light.

You’ve been warned.

Regards

Dustin Fuller.

P.s I suppose that’s why we’re are scared of the dark sometimes, because it’s the only time we get to think for ourselves.

The Rose

He pushed open a small wooden gate and made his way into the rich blooming garden. An archway of green vines extended before him, sea blue flowers blossomed all around. Bringing with them the sweet smell of an ocean breeze. He closed his eyes drew a deep breath through his nose. It felt as if he was back on the shoreline, bare feet in wet sand and the yearning for a sea-faring adventure.

The man continued to walk down the white stone walkway, till he reached a cross junction. He cocked his head and looked down each of the pathways. Colour beamed from every direction, the entirety of the garden was in flower and it truly was a spectacle to behold.

A range of plant life had been gathered there, from all reaches of the globe. Curiosity got the better of him as he turned to his left and followed the humble pathway deeper into the diverse nursery of flora. Spanning above him now was an abundance of small yellow saplings, secreting a sweet smell that pleased the senses. Once again he closed his eyes and took a deep breath, this time he found himself standing in a shallow meadow. A sea of green and yellow span out from under him, shimmering gently in the cool mid-morning breeze.

“Bast!” A soft voice called out.

He opened his eyes and found himself back in the garden, he turned to see a young sprightly woman walking elegantly towards him. She was adorned with a toga, made of flowing white silk. A black belt was strapped around her waist. Silver blonde hair adorned her head, an elegant plait ran from the girls forehead and followed all the way down to her lower back.

“Daisy. Its an honour.” He bowed slightly as she approached him.

“You do not need to bow to me, just because I am lord protectorate now. You helped me remember, I wouldn’t have this without you.” She lunged forward, bringing Bast in tightly for a hug. “So great to see you again.”

Bast smiled warmly, “You have a beautiful garden Daisy. It’s truly incredible.”

She knelt down, smelling a small blue flower that sat in the garden bed at their feet. “Thank you Bast, However I suppose its nothing akin to the underwater gardens of Aurelia. It must be a breath taking place to see.”

“It is. However Bokung is refusing entry to the reef at the moment. On account of the hostilities.”

“The Argapods are a wise race.”

“I shall take you when the next opportunity arises.” Bast replied, whilst taking Daisy’s delicate hand and helping her onto her feet. “Can I ask why it is that you have summoned me here?”

“Certainly, I wanted to show you something.” She took his hand and led him down a series of winding pathways, leading ever deeper into the thick green of the garden.

They reached a large circular clearing of lush green grass. In the centre of this clearing stood a circular stone building, Which had a large set of steel doors facing towards them. The two of them made their way across and Daisy pulled a small key from her pocket, slowly opening one of the large white doors.

They made their way inside. The room was almost in complete darkness. Only one solid beam of light pierced its way into the room, highlighting a small black and red rose that sat in the middle of it.

“This is what you wanted to show me?” Bast asked confused, kneeling down to look at the singular flower.

“Do you know what that is? It’s a blood rose.” Daisy replied.

“I’ve never heard of one of those before… It certainly is beautiful.”

“They’re extremely rare, many people thought they were just myths. Want to guess why they call it a blood rose Bast?”

He stood up and watched as Daisy circled the room. Dipping in and out of shadow as she went. She came full circle and stood behind him, draped in darkness.

“It’s because they feed off blood.”

In a flash, Daisy brought her foot into the back of Bast leg causing him to crash to his knees. Before he had a chance to react she already had a blade poised at his throat. He stared down at the small timid rose beneath him.

“I’ve heard about your little revolt Bast. I know about your secret meetings with Bokung and the Muskove council. You helped me free this land from a tyrant. Don’t ruin everything we’ve achieved by trying to start a civil war.”

“The Argapods don’t want war, they want independence, as does Muskove. That’s all.”

Daisy brought the sharp blade closer to his throat. He closed his eyes and prepared for the end. But it never came. She withdrew her blade, but not before slashing it quickly across his cheek.

A small stream of blood poured out, a small droplet of which fell onto the rose beneath him. It soaked up the blood like a sponge and grew a little larger.

Daisy tucked the blade neatly away within her toga. She took a step back and faded completely into the darkness that surrounded the room. Her voice echoed.

“If I find out you’re making trouble for me again Bast, that rose is going to get a lot bigger. Now leave.”

Bast got to his feet, took a deep breath and composed himself. He touched the small cut upon his cheek. He glanced around the room and could see nothing but darkness. Only the small blood rose stood, flooded in a single beam of sunlight, he stared at it. Let out a heavy sigh of frustration, turned and left. Ready to return home, to Muskove.

Hanabi

He stood at the chamber entrance, a lone silhouette staring down into the gently torch lit corridor before him. Almost silently, he descended down the small set of stairs that led deeper into the earth. With an outstretched arm, his fingers glided across the smooth stone walls that encompassed him.

It wasn’t long before he reached an open room. It was a splendid sight. Art lay upon all four walls, depicting different people and different scenes. All the magnificent work was etched slightly into the walls, and painted with bright clear paints. Rich blues, vibrant reds and many other colours made each of the etchings seemingly leap out into a burst of life.

The lone man approached one of the walls, and delicately placed his large hand on one of the paintings. This particular painting depicted two small children, on a golden shore, standing together. “Hanabi.” He whispered quietly.

Instantly within his mind he was returned to that day.

He was a young man, 16 and full of life and mischief. He sprinted as fast as he could down onto the soft shore. Gazing out at the crystal blue sea that stretched all the way out to the horizon before him. He panted heavily and rests both hands on his knees in exhaustion. He notices a figure in his peripheral vision and turned his head to see who the shore line stranger was. It was a young woman, seemingly of a similar age to himself. She was dressed in a very worn, simple blue dress.

Are you alright?” She asked innocently.

The boy nodded, and gulped as he began to regain his normal calm breathing.

You seem exhausted. What are you running from?” The girl continued to ask, her voice soft as silk.

Responsibilities.” The boy replied with a cheeky grin.

The two of them laughed.

What’s your name?” The girl asked.

Daewan. Yours?”

Hanabi.”

The two of them smiled at each other for a moment. Then Daewan stood upright and looked over his shoulder, back up towards the ridge of fresh green grass that he had just ran from.

Still trying to avoid your responsibilities Daewan?”

The boy looked back at his new found friend. “Yeah. You could say that.” He replied, before looking back over his shoulder once more.

Suddenly she grabbed his hand, before he knew it, he was running down the undisturbed sands of the shore with Hanabi. Who turned to him with a smile to say “Don’t worry, I know a place you can hide!”

The two of them made there way down the golden beach to a collection of a rocks that lay shattered by the edge of the free flowingly sea. Surrounding them stood a tall cliff face that, over the years, the sea had chiselled away at. Leaving several deep caves at its basen.

Daewan looked at a rock pool that lay at his feet. The shallow water was teeming with all sorts of life. He knelt down and watched as a small sea anemone blossomed open. Gently spreading its many purple tentacles.

“Beautiful isn’t it.” Hanabi whispered quietly, as she crouched down next to him. Daewan turned his head and looked upon her fair face, which was littered with light freckles.

“Yes.” he replied. “very beautiful.”

“Come on, let me show you something else!” Hanabi exclaimed. “You don’t want to return to your responsibilities just yet do you?”

“Not at all.”

She grabbed his hand and in a flash the two of them bounded off once again.

Daewan brought himself back to the present day, as his old fingers left the cold stone painting. A smile grew across his deep set wrinkled face. “You always took me a special place, a place no one else could and I knew from that day, we would never be apart.” Daewan whispered, as he move along the wall. He gazed upon another painting. Depicting two adults, standing proud and fair. The female depicted in the painting had both arms wrapped round the man who stood before her.

“Daewan?” His memory called out him, and in an instant he let himself fully succumb to it.

“Daewan?” She called out softly, standing idly in the open library entrance.

The grand room boasted large bookcases which stretched from one side of the room to the other. Thousands of tomes stood proudly upon them. The cool floor was made of a sparkling white marble. In the centre of the room sat Daewan, sat at a desk crowded with books and notes.

“Daewan, you’ve been in here all day. I’m starting to wonder if you’re ever going to leave this library.” Hanabi said tenderly, as she made her way over to him.

“Yes I know! I’m just learning about the kings and queens that ruled before my father.” He said, still focused on the parchment that was situated on the polished wooden table. “I need to learn as much as I can about them. So that when the time comes, I can become a great king, just like my father.” Daewan sat up from his desk and ran his fingers through his rough brown hair, then closed his heavy eyes. “I’m sorry sweetheart. I’m just, under a lot of pressure at the moment.”

Hanabi stood behind him and stared down into his bright blue eyes. She place her tender pale hands on his cheeks and lent over, planting a soft kiss upon his lips. “I understand Daewan. I haven’t come to hassle you, I’ve come to give you this.” She reached into her sleek, finely crafted, blue robes and pulled out a small white flower. She placed it on his desk.

It’s beautiful Hanabi.” Daewan said quietly, as he looked back up at his love who stood behind him.

White means forever Daewan.” She replied with a smile, as she planted a final tender kiss on his lips. “You are already an incredible man and one day, you will be an incredible king.”

And you will have all the joys of being Queen my beautiful Hanabi.” He replied warmly.

I already have all the joys the world can offer me, because I have you.”

The words that echoed round his mind slowly began to fade, as he found himself back in the present day. The memories were as clear as they day they happened. “and you always will have me.” He said to himself calmly, before turning from the nostalgic painting. Daewan walked through another cold stone corridor, and fed off from that chamber, leading deeper underground. The walls were plain and featureless, but as he reached the end of the passage he found himself in another decorated room. However the paintings before him evoked a feeling of sadness inside him. He approached another relief in the wall, depicting a sad scene of sorrow and anger.

“Little did we know of the dark days ahead of us.”

Once more the memories came flooding back, now he found himself in the grand royal hall.

Storming away from an empty throne towards the open entrance that lead out into the city square. He saw Hanabi, rushing in as fast as she could.

As she approached Daewan, she held both of his board shoulders firmly and looked into his wild eyes. “I came as soon as I heard. Are you alright!?” She asked, her voice soft as always.

“He’s-! That man-!” Daewan choked on his words, and instead expressed his discontent in a low grumble. He shook Hanabi’s hands off of his shoulders. “He’s gone insane! He will not listen to reason! At all!”

Hanabi looked at him sympathetically. “Daewan, it must be hard for him. It-“

“Hard for him!? Yes I knows she’s his wife. But she’s my mother and this war, that my father wishes to wage, will not get her back any quicker!”

“He’s acting out of passion.”

“He’s acting out of his god damn mind!”

“And you’ve got to make sure you don’t do the same!”

Daewan was silenced. He avoided Hanabi’s sympathetic eyes, and just stared at the floor.

“Dark times lie ahead for us. For everyone. Things are about to change and things are going to be a lot different.” Hanabi said in a calm yet firm voice. She walked up closer to him, and reached out for his hand, gripping it tightly. “But one thing will never change, our love for one another.”

Daewan frantic breathing slowed down to a steady pace, and he sheepishly turned his head to look back into Hanabi’s clear blue eyes. He lifted his left hand up to her cheek, gently stroking her pale white skin. “You give me the strength that not even a thousand warriors could.” He replied. “And you’re right. Our love will never change.”

“You were right. Things did change and things did become a lot different.” Daewan said to the painting on the wall. He turned to inspect the rest of the room, and on the opposite side of the chamber lay a relief that filled him deeply with sorrow. His chin trembled slightly as he took it all in.

A grand city being crushed by mighty ocean waves. People fleeing as fast as they could from the oncoming horrors that rushed down upon them. Men, Women and children, swallowed up by a mighty storm. However to the edge of the painting, stood two figures, helping people onto a boat. That was a sad day. A terrible day.

Daewan could feel the terrible winds and torrential rain beating down upon him. He struggled to move against the brutal weather, but with his will of steel he powered on. Helping as many people as he could escape the hellish destruction, by lifting them onto the one boat that they had to obtain.

He squinted, wiping the rain from his eyes. The storm raged across the skies. Thick black clouds flashed with bright bursts of thunder. The wind whistled violently as it rushed relentlessly across the land. Ripping apart the earth and the homes that lay upon it. Monstrous waves flooded in from the ocean, crashing down heavily on whatever remained, wiping away the destruction ravaged by the storm. Erasing the land and people upon it, as if they had never existed.

In amidst all of the hellish chaos, Daewan spotted four figures up a winding cobblestone path way, that led away from the docks. Quickly, he gazed over the boat beside him. Which was crammed with terrified faces, but one face was missing.

“Hanabi!” He yelled as he sprinted up the cobblestone path, rushing straight into the furious wind and rain that hammered down on him. He put an arm up in an attempt to shield the heavy rainfall from his eyes. As he approached the four figures a voice cried out. “Daewan!”

He carried on up the steep incline, fighting against the relentless weather. He finally met with the group, which consisted of two young girls and their mother. And Sure enough Hanabi was with them. Daewan brushed Hanabis wet tangled hair from her face and embraced both cheeks with his hands.

“Hanabi! Hanabi! Are you alright!?” He asked frantically.

“Yes! I’m fine! Come on! We need to go!” She replied.

Daewan nodded, grabbed her hand and led them all down the rocky pavement to the docks, where the small boat sat upon the harsh waters. Daewan threw them all aboard as they reached the boat and untied the rope which kept it secured to the land. Just as he did, a large wave stretched up over hill they had just come down and crashed with a monstrous roar. Buildings were smashed beneath its strength and the water rushed madly down the cobble stone pavement.

“Everyone hold on!” He exclaimed.

The tremondous wave collided with the boat and pushed it far out from the mainland. The terrified people inside, clung to one another, fearing for their lives. Daewan held Hanabi tightly in his arms,he closed his eyes and prayed. For there was nothing else that he could do. Their fate rested in the hands of the gods.

Though fate smiled upon that day. For it was not long before the waters had settled, and the boat steadied itself on the calmer sea. Daewan opened one eye cautiously, the sky was still black and the rain still fell, but the waters where they found themselves were calm. He turned his head to gaze back at his homeland. The storm continued there, wave after wave of water shook the land. Daewan watched hopelessly as his home crumbled and cracked, vanishing beneath the unforgiving ocean. His heart ached and a single tear was lost in the rainfall that bore down upon him. Hanabi rubbed his hand gently and stared up towards him.

“64 million people. Gone in an instant. 64 million… and we barely managed to save 50 of them.” Daewan said hoarsely, a lump growing tightly in his throat.

“You did all that you could.” Hanabi reassured him, a hint of sadness touched her words.

He turned his face away from the emptiness that his home once situated. “We both did.” He murmured quietly. “But it’s all gone now. Our kingdom. Our home. Gone forever.”

Daewan, I for one don’t need a kingdom and my home is with you!” She leaped up and hugged him tightly.

A small smile came about Daewans face as he returned the loving embrace and rested his head on her shoulder. “You always know what to say Hanabi.”

She kissed him quickly, before taking a step back once again. “So, what do we do now?”

Daewan looked at her for a moment, before he noticed everyone else sat within the small boat was staring at him also. Wide eyed, with a faint glimmer of hope about them. He cleared his throat, before standing up to address the few remaining people of his nation.

We’re heading west. To seek refuge with the Mayan people.” He announced firmly.

A small voice from within the crowd replied “But what about the Egyptians in the east?”

They are our allies. But they’re too close to the Greek empire.” Daewan replied. “I shall not endanger your lives by venturing near the enemy. The Greeks have never made it across the sea to the Mayan homeland. So we shall be safe there, free from their persecution.” After Daewan have finished talking his fellow refugees he sat down and looked across at Hanabi. She reached out and grabbed his hand, squeezing it tightly, and smiled.

Daewan wiped a fresh tear from his old worn face and turned from the heart aching painting. As he turned he was met with the final corridor within the complex. As he walked down it, he spoke out softly. “You stayed with me through it all. You helped me through it all. The loss of my mother, my father even the loss of our beautiful homeland.” He entered another small chamber, however no art decorated its walls. Instead in its centre, on a beautifully carved pedestal, sat a lone idle sarcophagus. Daewan stood at the entrance, a lump growing in his throat, a pain twisting in his heart. He took several short steps and placed a delicate white flower upon the beautifully constructed chest. “Hanabi. I love you and I will always love you… I also know our people would have loved you just as much as I do.”

Daewan closed his eyes in mourning.

“You would have been the most beloved Queen of Atlantis.”

–Behind every great man, is a strong woman.–