The Enemy Within
Post Invasion, South Yorkshire 2014.
Eric was finding it increasingly hard to ignore the voice in his head. His mp3 player was set to maximum volume, and yet it still broke through. He could hear it singing along with his playlist. It was maddening, and the stress he was under was becoming unbearable. The muscles in his neck and shoulders were knotted so tight, he could barely turn his head.
The others seemed to be giving him a wide berth. He was no longer in charge, not that he gave a crap any more. Eric had always been the leader. Even as a kid in nursery, the other children would dance to his tune. The teachers soon learned that the best way to keep order was to get him on side. It stayed that way through high school and college.
What others saw as leadership, was actually little more than cynical manipulation. Eric knew how to get people to do things, even if they didn’t really want to. He was aware that others viewed him as strange, and he viewed their concern with the same fascination that a scientist might study a colony of ants. He also knew that for some it was more than mere concern. They were afraid of him, and that excited him.
Eric’s aunt had been one of those who harboured deep concerns about him. In his mind, she hated him. As far as he was concerned the feeling was mutual. Actually her feelings were more about concern than hatred. Truth be known she feared him, but she could never bring herself to hate him.
He had once hidden himself away in a pantry so that he could eaves drop on her as she chatted to his mother at the kitchen table. They had been deep in conversation, and Eric had convinced himself that they were conspiring against him.
Eric’s mother was crying, and his aunt had her arm around his mother. She was busy chattering into his mums ear, turning his mum against him. His blood boiled. He couldn’t bear it, and he wasn’t going to let her get away with it. He would end up killing her two years later. He would be barely eleven years old.
Aunty Christine had been watching over him while his mother and father were at a parent, teacher conference. Things had got off to a bad start when she banished to his room for refusing to eat the meal she had prepared. He had sat on his bed seething, and passing the time by bouncing a ball off the ceiling. It did nothing to calm his anger, and as the minutes ticked he began to fantasise.
Eric didn’t do schoolboy fantasy. Football stars, astronauts and musicians didn’t float his boat. Instead he often daydreamed about hurting people. School friends, teachers, and the paper boy often featured in his minds wanderings. He had managed to confine his macabre interests up until the previous summer, when he had come across a neighbours dog, a scrawny looking mutt while playing alone in the garden.
They often tied it to a drain pipe when they went to work. It had a long leash and they would leave plenty of food. It must have been chasing a bird or a cat, and had managed to break free. There had been a gap in the fence panels separating Eric’s garden from the neighbours, and the dog had pushed its way through.
It had come bounding up to the boy, tongue lolling, tail wagging. It had probably been desperate for company, after all it could be long lonely day tied to that pipe. Eric had noticed the crude leash still tied around the animals neck, and trailing behind it. An idea blossomed inside his head, and he was powerless to stop it from flourishing.
He knelt down beside the dog and began stroking its head, all the while making reassuring and friendly noises. With his free hand he reached out and lifted the leash from the grass. Excitement rushed through his veins, and his heart quickened as he quickly wrapped the cord around its neck. At first the dog seemed oblivious, and carried on wagging its tail. Then as the leash grew a little tighter it became visibly nervous, and began trying to back away.
It’s tail had stopped wagging, and a little growl rumbled in the back of its throat. Eric pulled the cord hard and the growl became a yelp. Then silence, save for the sound of the dog thrashing around in the dirt. It was a futile struggle, and it was soon over. He had sat staring in fascination at its lifeless body for several minutes, before eventually returning to the kitchen to fetch a refuse sack.
As he lay on his bed listening to the sound of his aunts footsteps on the stairs outside his room, he remembered that feeling of sheer ecstasy. He recalled how it had taken ages for his heart rate to slow down, and he also remembered the weird, but not altogether unpleasant sensations he had felt in his private parts.
He assumed aunty Christine was coming to deliver a lecture, but she walked right past his room and into the toilet. He heard the door slam shut behind her. On tip toes he crossed the bedroom and teased the door open. The bathroom door was still shut, in his hands he was holding a ball of string. He often used it torment the family cat. He’d even strung the fucking thing up by its tail once. He’d have left it to starve, only his Dad caught him and had given him the beating of his life for it.
Eric briefly entertained thoughts of choking his aunt to death with the string, but it would be harder to dispose of her than the mongrel next door. There was a bannister post on both side of the top of the stairs. If he could tie the string to each upright, near the base would she notice? He decided she wouldn’t and moved quickly.
The stairs were steep. If she tripped she’d surely break her neck. He could then remove the string, and nobody would have a clue. It would look like an accident. Behind him the toilet flushed. Eric ran back to his room, making it back inside, just as she opened the bathroom door.
He remembered that afternoon two years earlier when he had hid in the pantry. He had heard his aunt telling his mother that he was “not right in the head,” and that “she should get him checked out,” and he smiled to himself. It would be her checking out tonight.
He waited, what seemed an eternity, his heart pounding. The anticipation and the excitement was exhilarating, and he felt that familiar throbbing in his pants again. Then he heard it, the sound he had been waiting for.
Christine’s had been wearing headphones and was listening intently to a Danielle Steele audio book. Her head was also a little woozy from the vodka, disguised as fruit juice she had been drinking downstairs. She did cry out briefly, but fell silent as her head hit the wall with sickening force. Her body crashed to the stairs and just continued to roll to the bottom, leaving a red smear in its wake.
Eric leapt from his bed and returned to the top of the stairs. He stared down at her, crumpled and motionless. The light in the downstairs hall illuminated her eerily. He could see her eyes were open and staring back at him, but they were lifeless, and her head lay at an angle that even he could see was incompatible with life. The throbbing in his crotch grew more intense, and he had to sit down. He waited until it reached an inevitable crescendo. The release was so powerful he couldn’t prevent himself from moaning out loud.
He sat there for several minutes, staring at her body, just as he had done with the poor pooch from next door. This time the sound of a car pulling onto the driveway stirred him out of his dark contemplation. His aunt’s foot had snapped the string as she lost her balance, and Eric moved quickly to untie the remnants from both posts, before the front door opened and his parents made their grim discovery.
Eric had never once fallen under suspicion. Nobody had realised it until the scene of crime team descended upon the family home, that Christine had been drinking heavily, when she was meant to taking care of him. The police had found a half empty bottle of vodka tucked down the cushion on the armchair she had been sitting in. The post mortem would later confirm her astronomical blood alcohol levels, ensuring that her nephew would never pay for his crime.
He had dispensed with the witch who was poisoning his parents minds, and he had gotten away with it. That was all that mattered to Eric. It never occurred to him that he had robbed his mother of her sister, or his cousins of a parent. Not giving a shit about anyone else was a talent Eric exploited to the fullest. It came in really useful when he eventually joined the police force.
He had been able to resist the pressure from his father initially, but eventually the weight of expectation got too much. It was after all the family business. His father was a detective in South Yorkshire Police for forty years, and Eric was now part of a tradition that could be traced back to the nineteenth century. Besides, his father was the only person Eric truly feared.
From the snippets his aunts and uncles would let slip, it seemed that his great grandfather had escaped the coal mines in the 1890’s and moved to Liverpool, where he became a Sergeant in the local constabulary, only to return in 1929 under mysterious circumstances. It seems he then saw out his remaining years in the town of his birth. Whenever Eric would probe a little deeper they would clam up, or change the subject completely.
Eric had found their evasiveness oddly amusing, but it never worried him. Not much worried him in truth. He just didn’t care about the things they were trying to hide, though he had been intrigued. There was often dirt in secrets, and dirt was leverage, and so his curiosity festered. By the time he had become a probationary constable, it had become somewhat of an obsession.
He had been able to uncover a great deal on line, and thankfully the Merseyside Police had a very detailed on-line archive. It seemed his Great Grandfather had been somewhat of a rebel rouser. It had been little wonder the conservative uniformed branch of the family hadn’t wanted to talk. Great Grandpa Robert had organised a police revolt in Liverpool in 1919. It had spread throughout the nation. The army had eventually put it down, but the passing decades hadn’t been able to suppress the shame felt by his descendants.
Eric half expected his application to be rejected as soon as they read his surname, but too many years had gone by and he eventually graduated with honours. All that though was before the world went to shit. The invasion had decimated the county, and now only small pockets of survivors remained. Eric and a group of fellow officers were among them, clinging to refuge in the the old police headquarters.
They had boarded up all of the windows, and the doors. A generator hummed in the corner, feeding the flickering light bulb hanging from the ceiling. Including Eric, there were five of them. There had originally been eight.
They had been in there for a few weeks, and the supplies were beginning to run out. By the time they had run into each other almost a month earlier, each of them had spent over a year in isolation, dodging and diving to stay alive. Since then they had felt fairly safe in the station, taking in turns to go out foraging for food. They didn’t feel safe any more. Days earlier Eric had been on a food run, when unbeknown to him he had been followed back to the hideout.
He had returned arms laden with goodies, much to everybody’s delight. The euphoria didn’t last long, as his invisible followers began to wreak havoc. Three of his fellow refugees were set upon within moments of him entering the building. The room quickly resembled an abattoir. Word had very quickly spread through the isolated communities who had survived the initial invasion, that the monsters were susceptible to salt, and the group had stockpiled it from the moment they took up refuge in the police station.
Eric had his doubts that something as mundane as a table condiment could have any impact on such unearthly creatures, but had acquiesced, when the majority had insisted on it. He liked, no he needed to be in control. However, he also knew the value of choosing your battles carefully.
As it happened he was glad he had given in. When the attack had happened he immediately ran into the back office that had been converted into a store room, leaving the others to take the brunt of the onslaught. This didn’t go unnoticed and was a contributory factor in his ultimate isolation from the group.
Though he would later claim to have gone in there to get the salt, this was a bare faced lie. He had gone in there to hide, locking and initially barricading the door behind him. Then he spotted a large sack of rock salt, and instantly realised he had a potential weapon that would aid his escape.
As he began removing the barricade and unlocking the office door, his thoughts were focussed on saving himself. He had fully expected the rest of his ‘comrades’ to be dead. To his surprise they had put up a brave fight and five of them were still standing.
Their faces turned toward him as he charged through the door screaming at the top of his lungs. The Dark Things paused momentarily fixating on the berserker running at them, eyes wild and filled with madness. Eric hurled the bag of salt into the ground with a force fuelled both by his rage, and his sheer will to survive.
It exploded in a white cloud, covering an area of several feet. It covered everything, and the creatures began to scream and writhe as if burnt by acid. Their agony seemed to strip them of their invisibility, and they became clear to all in the room. Eric’s heart was pounding, he felt murderous excitement well in the pit of his stomach, and quickly spread through his body. His mind came alive, and he pulled a large blade from his belt and charged at the nearest monster to him, hacking and slashing.
He was laughing hysterically as he tore through the creatures flesh. The others initially stunned by the ferocity of his attack, quickly joined in the attack. It took little time at all to dispatch the the remainder of the monsters.
Following the battle, the group had been forced to move deeper into the building, barricading doors behind them as they went. In part they were fleeing the evil outside, but they were also escaping the bloodied remains of comrades. The nauseating stench of rotting death was harder to hide from though, and soon it filled the building.
Eric’s position within the group had been irrevocably undermined. Tensions began to grow, and resentment set in during the days that followed. Eric knew they were on to him, and slowly withdrew. The survivors began discussing options, talking strategy, and making decisions without him. All the time they were feeding his paranoia, and in doing so they were sealing their own fates. Eric would deal with them, it would take time for his moment to arrive, but he had no problem waiting.
It was soon after this that he began to hear the voice. It was a whisper at first, but soon it became more intrusive. It sounded for all the world like nightmare from the past. An old school teacher who had destroyed school for him, and haunted his darkest dreams ever since. It was persistent, impossible to ignore and it left him feeling weak.
“Tissyman you will show me respect boy.” It had scolded him, when, in the early stages he had the nerve to ignore it.
It thundered around his brain, freezing his blood, and taking him right back to his childhood. It made him feel worthless. Listening to his music helped a little, but even that couldn’t completely drown out the chattering in his head. It would have been more comforting to believe he had endured a psychotic break. If this was a mere hallucination, he could at least learn to ignore it. Maybe when he got out of this rat hole he could raid a chemist and take some anti psychotics.
He may even have been able to convince himself that this was the case, but then it began to predict things. He would be sitting quietly, when out of the blue the voice would utter an apparently random sentence. Then one of the other survivors would utter the exact same sentence just moments later. It had been deeply unnerving, and it was enough to convince Eric that the voice was not a figment of his troubled mind, but an entity living inside him.
So here he was, sat in a corner, once a leader, but now very much on the sidelines. Hatred and suspicion festered in him. Four of his fellow survivors huddled in front of a blockaded window. They were peering through the narrow gaps in the slats that were crudely nailed over the broken glass.
The batteries in his device were running very low and the songs were beginning to warble as a result. The voice in the background grew louder. He was no longer able to block it out.
“Beautiful music boy. Shame about the power. I was beginning to enjoy myself.” It was mocking him, and he knew it.
Eric wanted to scream ‘leave me alone.’ He didn’t need to of course. If he had a thought, the thing in his head could hear him. It was a level of violation, he found hard to bear.
“I can leave you alone boy, but first you must do something for me.” It said sensing the shudder that ran though Eric’s body each time it spoke.
“Why would I help you, I don’t even know what you are. Why would I believe anything you say anyhow. You have done nothing but cause me pain.” Eric just about wanted to live, but he was growing closer to suicidal ideation as the hours ticked by.
The thing inside him knew this, and chose its moment well. “All that you say is of course true boy. But what if I am telling the truth. What if I was to set you free.” There was silence in Eric’s mind “You would do well to reflect on that. A boy with your predilections, let loose on this world could find lots of opportunities to satisfy his hunger I’m sure.”
“What do you mean?” Eric suspected he knew the answer to this question, and he did.
“Oh dear boy. I didn’t need to be in here for long to get the measure of you. I know all about you. How long do you think it took me to find the character behind this voice? To know how he humiliated you, emasculated then raped you in the stationary cupboard all those years ago?”
“SHUT UP!” The pain of the memory cut deep, and Eric felt a terrible sadness he had not experienced before.
“It was a long time ago wasn’t it boy? But it lives with you still doesn’t it.” Eric didn’t respond, he couldn’t.
“Oh I have seen all of your darkest places boy. Even the ones you have hidden from yourself. It must have hurt so much. You bled didn’t you? I guess that physical pain never came close to the agony of knowing the whole class were outside that room. They were sat quietly at their desks. They all knew didn’t they boy.”
“Yes they all knew, but they did nothing did they. Actually that’s not true. They mocked you didn’t they. The dark patch in the back of your pants. It was blood, but they called you shitty pants didn’t they.”
This was the worst of tortures, and Eric wanted to scream. The voice went on, delighting in the pain it was causing, knowing that each syllable sapped Eric’s will that little but more, and brought him that little bit more under its spell.
“They could have saved you, but they were so happy it wasn’t them you see. That’s how childhood works. They sacrificed you. That’s why you hate them isn’t it. You hate them all. You have always been alone, even in a crowded room, you are the loneliest of all. Isn’t that the truth?”
“Yes.” Eric was beaten. He had nothing left, and he now willingly surrendered to the voice. “Yes I am all alone. Why don’t you just fucking end it now you bastard.”
“End it boy? No I am only just getting started. You are mine now.”
He began to actually weep, and the others turned and regarded him with contempt. The voice went on.
“You killed your aunt didn’t you boy? That was a bit of a step up from dogs I would say. Very impressive young man. She was just like the rest of them wasn’t she?”
“She would have turned your own mother against you, and then what? I don’t blame you for getting rid of her. Do it to them before they do it you I always say.”
“What is it you want from me?” Eric just wanted to be free, whatever it took. He was ready for total surrender
“I need you to do what you do best boy, and by the time you have finished your hands will be drenched in blood, and I will leave you be.”
The motorway was empty save for the odd pile of mangled wreckage. Eric past a sign that said Liverpool was just 20 miles away. The girl on the back seat looked dazed, almost drugged. He could tell it wasn’t that though. He knew post traumatic stress when he saw it. He had been driving for an hour when he saw her ambling along on the hard shoulder.
He though about driving by. Yes she was so vulnerable out in the open, but he didn’t give a shit about that kind of thing. Then a thought occurred to him, at least he hoped the thought was his. He just couldn’t tell any more. Anyway it was something like, why should I let the monsters take her when I could have some fun with her myself.
The voice in his head was gone now, but he couldn’t help mulling over something it had said, and it made him smile. It was something about a “a man with his tastes being able to satisfy his hungers.” Freedom from the self imposed prison he had been in felt so good. He had slashed and stabbed his way out of the place, and he had enjoyed doing it. The bastards had it coming. The voice was right about something else too. The hands, his hands, gripping the steering wheel of the car were drenched in blood. However, he was far from finished.
So he had pulled over just ahead of the girl, and opened the passenger door. She walked right past, not even breaking stride. It was like she hadn’t even seen him. He thumped the wheel and swore, before putting the van in gear again and following slowly behind her for a mile or two. He beeped her a few times, but she just walked on. Should I just run her down and be done with it? He thought, deciding instead to try again.
So he overtook her, pulling over a few hundred yards ahead. This time he got out and waited. She seemed to take an age to draw level with him. Eric stood in her way, and grabbed her by the shoulders, stopping her in her tracks and shaking her hard.
She had looked him in the eye. he thought he saw a flicker of recognition, and then she glanced at the vehicle. The passenger side door was open but she ignored it, and instead walked over to the rear door and climbed onto the back seat. She just sat there staring straight ahead, waiting.
What was it John Lennon said of his relationship with Yoko? That was it, At last I have found someone as fucking weird as I am. Eric had laughed out loud, scaring the birds that had congregated on the side of the rode to drink from a puddle and watch the strange tableau unfolding before them. He climbed back behind the wheel and drove on in silence.
He had no idea what he was going to do with her. Well that wasn’t true. he was going to kill her, but how? To Eric this was a nice problem to have. To him the destination was never as much fun as the journey.
He must have been so lost in fantasy that he barely noticed the miles passing by, and soon found himself on the coast road into Liverpool. The piles of debris and wreckage were becoming more frequent. Some had been deliberately pushed to the side of the road, but he had needed to steer around others.
“You are close now boy.”
The voice was back, and all of his joy left him. He wasn’t free at all. It was an illusion. He cursed the naivety of allowing himself to be conned so easily.
“Relax boy. I will leave you when you’re work is done. I made a promise and I do keep my promises. Believe that, and remember also what I promised would happen if you failed me.”
Eric did remember, but the words repeated themselves in his head nonetheless.
“There’ll be an eternity of stationary cupboards for you my boy. But succeed and your free to wet your appetites for as long as you live.”
He had driven through the night, and the morning sun was beginning to rear its head. In front of him the road started to clear. The voice was urging him to drive faster, and his foot pushed down on the accelerator. On the back seat the girl, unrestrained bounced around. Her eyes barely flickered. When she fell she just sat back up and kept staring ahead.
The van was racing along the dock road. He manoeuvred one last mound of twisted metal and concrete, and then he saw him. There was a man racing from a grand building, waiving his arms in the air. Eric brought the van to a halt and just sat there staring at the figure through the window. He was screaming at them to get out.
“You are here boy. Now you know what you must do.” Said the voice.
Behind him the girl leaned over and opened the door. Then she was out and walking towards the guy in the street. Eric just stared and smiled.
This is going to be a lot of fun he thought. A whole lot of fun.