Fiction Friday: The Loch Mess (extract)

I’ve wanted to write a book since I was about twelve, when I wrote this sci-fi novella which has since got lost. I’ve written off and on since then, filling notebooks and text documents with half finished stories and abandoned ideas.

Writing a book is an item on my bucket list and at the moment I have four or five ideas kicking around in my head. I’ve even finished two projects, but never done anything with them. As I’m doing the 2.6 Challenge to raise money for the Big Issue Foundation I thought I’d write 2,600 words of fiction (you can sponsor me here, minimum donation is £2). And on my night shift last night I managed to write just over that amount on my phone.

So, that’s what below, it serves as an opening for an idea I’ve had rattling around in my head for a few months and I hope you enjoy.

Warning, bit of gore and light swearing.

*   *   *   *   *

The diary of Constable Bill Armstrong, April 11th.

The news reports are becoming more worrying. Every morning we watch and listen, hoping for answers but nobody seems to have any. They’re evacuating Edinburgh, and the army is rolling into Glasgow.

Half the village wants to leave, they say out here we have no protection, that if any of them come here we’ll be massacred.

I can’t argue against that, but where the hell would we go? They ask me questions I can’t answer.

The world’s gone mad.

April 6th.

The sun shone down onto Lochdorchadas, dancing across the deep, dark waters of the lake. The streets were busy, the locals standing around in the small square outside the church, a low hum of conversation.

Joey MacLeod knew that gossip and rumour would be swirling about the village, and understood their fears. Watching the morning news had become a surreal experience, and he imagined that everyone else was wondering what in the hell was going on too.

Joey’s companion, Conan, a great, slobbering rottweiler, seemed confused that he didn’t receive his customary greeting of head scratches and surreptitious biscuits.

“Sorry, lad, I think their minds are elsewhere.”

Joey shared nods of greeting as he passed, but the old familiar faces were drawn and tired. Tension and fear etched on their faces.

Joey and Conan walked past the church and cut down the path to the loch’s shores. Conan squeezed under the fence and Joey clambered over the stile.

Joey was a tall man, a shade over six foot and in good shape. Under his tatty army jacket he might have looked skinny, but hours of outdoor work, running and swimming meant he was lean and strong. He was scruffy in appearance, unshaven and with windswept locks, and several of the older women in the village felt that he was in need of a woman to look after him.

This early morning walk was part of his work, maintaining the paths and bird watching hides that surrounded the lake. Every morning he and Conan would make a lap of the loch, clearing empty cans from the hides and checking that no fences needed fixing.

It was an easy life, and one Joey enjoyed. He had always loved nature and working for the preservation of the area suited him just fine. No boss breathing down his neck, plenty of fresh air, aye, life was good.

Looking out across the water, where ducks glided across the surface and the small island in the centre of the Loch stood in the shadow of the mountains all the stories of the news fell away.

Halfway around the loch the path cut across a field, and Conan paused briefly to mark his territory on a sign advising dog walkers to put their animals on the lead to avoid scaring the cattle. Conan never went on the lead, and was well trained that he never bothered the shaggy haired cows.

“Good boy.”

Up ahead, near the top of the field he saw Ed Giles, the stocky farmer looking grim as he called him over.

“Morning, Ed, something wrong?”

“Aye, you could say that.” Ed said, drawing on a cigarette. He nodded behind him and Joey, puzzled, walked past him.

“Jesus!”

One of Ed’s cows lay on the grass, lifeless eyes staring unseeing into the sky. The beast was dead. Joey had seen many dead cows in his work, but none like this. The poor creature’s stomach had been torn open in several long, jagged cuts and blood soaked the grass around the body.

“What the hell happened?”

“Damned if I can tell ya, lad.” Ed replied. “Never seen a thing like it.”

“It’s not a dog attack. Unless there’s a bloody pack running wild.” Joey shook his head in horrified disbelief. “What could do this?”

As soon as the words were out of his mouth he regretted them, remembering the news reports.

“You called it in?”

“Aye, Bill’s on his way now.”

Bill was Bill Armstrong, the local police constable. He’d soon get to the bottom of things, Joey knew.

“Let me know what he says, alright Ed. It’s bad business, but hopefully I’m wrong and it’s just a particularly nasty dog, could be she was hurt already.”

“Could be.” But Ed didn’t sound convinced. “You look after yourself out here, boy.”

 

The rest of the walk passed without incident, but the enjoyment was gone, the views couldn’t stop the memory of the gutted cow from returning, and in the silence every small noise turned menacing.

Back at his cottage Joey put on some music and busied himself making coffee and a bacon sandwich. Conan, drooling, watched from his bed, knowing that his patience would be rewarded and he’d get some bacon.

Joey looked through his diary, deciding what little job should be done next and soon found the tension ease, at least until the police 4×4 pulled up outside.

Bill Armstrong was a big bloke, broad shouldered and stocky, with a nose that had clearly been broken once or twice. He was powerfully built and looked like he could handle himself, but Joey knew he was a friendly, relaxed man beneath it all. Today, however, the big man looked worried, and ran a hand through his dark curls.

“Alright, Bill?”

“Not really, mate.”

“There’s fresh coffee if you want some?” 

“That would be good.”

Bill sat at the table and Joey poured them both a coffee, adding sugar to his own as Bill poured milk into his. He wanted to ask questions, to see if the police had any more clue as to what was going on, but he could sense something was up with the constable and gave him time.

“I was wondering if you’d do me a favour.” Bill finally spoke.

“I’ll help if I can.”

“I need someone to come with me, backup I guess. I’ve tried the other villages but, well, they seem to have their own problems at the moment.”

That statement landed heavily and Joey could feel himself tense, clearly things were bad and it was closer to home than he’d thought.

“Willie McBryde rang me.” Bill continued. “He’s seen some people around the holiday place. Now, he acts as caretaker so he knows nobody is booked in for the moment.”

“That’s not far from Ed’s fields.”

“Yeah.”

A heavy silence fell, both men seeing the slaughtered cow in their mind’s eye once more.

“I’m hoping it’s just kids or tramps, but I’d feel better with someone watching my back.”

“You deputising me?”

Bill chuckled.

“Guess I am.”

“Do I get a badge, sheriff?”

 

The holiday place, owned by an English lawyer, was rented out for most of the summer and looked out across the loch. It had previously belonged to the local vet, but when he’d retired none of the locals could match the lawyer’s bid.

Bill pulled off the road at the end of the private lane that ran down to the house. The lane curved behind some trees and the car wasn’t visible from the house.

“I figure we’d walk down, avoid spooking them and letting them run.” Bill explained. “I’ll ring Willie, see if he’s seen them leave or anything.”

Bill rang on his mobile but got no answer.

“Let’s go.” Bill said.

He eased out of the car and opened the boot. He handed a vest to Joey.

“You may as well look more like a copper.”

As Joey put on the vest and tightened it, he watched as Bill typed in a code and opened a lock box under the boot compartment. Inside were two pump action shotguns.

“Guns?”

“Better safe than sorry.” Bill said simply, and held one out.

“I dunno, man, I’m nae a policeman.”

“No, but you’re a good shot and who knows what we’re going to find.” 

“I shoot rabbits and clay pigeons, man!”

“Well, then these bigger targets won’t be a problem.” Seeing that his new deputy was about to object Bill added. “Willie saw six guys, and with what’s going on in the news, well, I’d feel safer with some firepower.”

They stood in silence for a moment, and then Joey racked the gun.

“Let’s go.”

“You pumped it because you wanted to look cool, didn’t you?”

“Did it work?”

“A little.” 

 

They walked on either side of the lane, slowly advancing on the cottage. It was a small place, and from their angle they could see both the front and back doors. The front door stood slightly open.

“Inside the house!” Bill bellowed. “This is the police, please come out of the front door slowly.”

There was silence for a moment or two.

“I repeat this is the police, we need to talk to you, come out of the front door.”

Silence again.

Joey looked across at the constable.

“What now?” He said softly.

“Let’s move in closer.”

They walked five paces closer, and Joey’s butterflies now felt like Mothra flapping about in there.

“If you do not comply we will force entry to the property!” Bill called out.

The front door opened wider, slowly. A young man was clumsily pushing his way out.

Dressed in blood smeared hiking clothes, he was in his early twenties at most and looked up at them with glazed eyes. Around his mouth was dried, caked blood, but fresher blood mixed with it.

“Jesus.” Joey said softly.

Behind the young man other shuffling forms were following.

“On your knees, now!” Bill ordered.

The young man took a stumbling step out of the house and then rushed forward, straight at Bill. His glazed, lifeless eyes widened and he let out a loud snarling groan as he charged.

Bill brought the shotgun up.

“Stop!”

It made no difference.

The explosion of the gun going off echoed through the woods and the young man, caught in the chest was knocked off his feet, landing hard on his back.

“All of you, on your knees!”

The other three forms spilled out, three other young men, all dressed for a weekend of hill walking, all covered with blood. They all let out a similar groaning growl and stumbled forwards.

This grizzly sight of their snapping, gore stained jaws was bad enough. But more horrifying was seeing their companion, his chest a bloody ruin, trying to get to his feet.

“Fuck me.” Bill said, almost to himself.

The three others snarled and rushed forward. Instinct overtook him and Joey raised his own gun and fired, it took the closest at the waist, taking his legs from under him as the blast tore through his back. What had once been a young man smashed face first onto the ground.

Bill fired twice more, his first sending the initial attacker back to the floor, the second making one of the others reel back from a blast to the shoulder.

The final abomination rushed at Joey, heedless of the shotgun. Joey raised the weapon and fired, the shot destroying the thing’s face and the body fell to the ground where it lay still.

“Good work!” Bill yelled.

He fired again, and the one with the damaged shoulder hit the floor hard, half its head missing.

Joey stepped forward, his first target, its legs useless, was dragging itself towards him, groaning and biting the air as it neared. A second shot stopped its progress.

Bill stepped forward and calmly put down the first of their attackers, the third shot being the charm.

“Zombies. Bloody zombies!” Joey said, adrenalin bringing a nervous laugh to his lips.

“Reload, there could be two more.”

Joey hastily fed in three new shells, while Bill watched the house. Then roles were switched, both rearmed, they advanced on the house.

 

The inside of the cottage stank of death, bloody smears and splatter covered the furniture and the walls. A stream of blood had flowed from behind the sofa, and rounding it they found Willie McBryde staring at the ceiling through lifeless eyes.

“Damn it, Willie.” Bill said softly. “I told you to stay at home.”

Joey had known Willie and seeing him like this was too much, his throat was missing, a gaping, gory mess. Other wounds on his arms and chest gave some idea of the severity of his attack.

Picking up a blanket, Joey draped it over the dead man’s face. He placed his gun on the table, the adrenalin ebbing slightly, his hands trembling.

Bill searched the small place quickly, no sign of two other men. The back door was locked from the outside and covered in bloody scratch marks.

“The other two got out. Looks like their friends were after them.”

“We should go see if they’re okay.”

Joey picked up his shotgun from the table, as he did the blanket began to twitch.

“Oh, god.”

What had once been Willie McBryde sat up, the blanket fell away and it looked at them with dead, malevolent eyes.

Joey fired, putting Willie to rest.

 

They raced down the path from the house, Bill yelling into his radio for his assistant at the station to tell everyone to get inside, lock their doors and not open them to anyone.

Outside the back door they had found blood, at least one of those who had fled was injured and likely to become one of the flesh eating monstrosities they had just dealt with.

Blood drops trailed into the woods, heading towards the village. Both men ran at full speed, vividly imagining the horrors that might happen if they were too late.

They rounded a corner and a figure was running towards them, both shotguns swung up.

“No, please!”

The girl looked terrified.

“Did they bite you?” Bill demanded.

“N-no, but you have to come, they’re hurt bad.”

 

The girl had been alone in the campsite when the two men arrived, both injured. She’d been trying to get through to get an ambulance when the young man had died.

In the distance they heard loud echoing pops, like fireworks and the surviving man had been distracted. The dead man came back? He bit his friend who had shoved him off and ran. Then the dead man had come for her. She’d ran.

They got all this before they reached the campsite, the gate had locked behind her and the zombie was bashing against it stupidly. Bill dropped it easily.

The girl was horrified and on the verge of tears.

“Where’s the other guy?” Bill asked angrily.

“I don’t know.” She said shakily.

“Which way did he go?!”

“Easy, Bill.” Joey said and started looking around the campsite, there was a small pool of blood and then drips leading to a fence. Beyond it, a large, open field sloped down to the village.

Halfway across, moving at a lurching, staggering jog was the last hiker.

“He’s turned.” Joey said. “And he’s out of range.”

Beyond him some of the villagers were still outside in the streets, unaware of the death closing in on them.

 

“If he gets to them it’ll be a bloodbath.” Bill said softly.

Joey didn’t think, he just dropped his shotgun over the fence and climbed over. They had to stop it. Bill was behind him in a moment and they were chasing. The girl, to her credit, followed too.

The thing seemed to be speeding up, whether due to the slope or some sense that it’s prey was near they didn’t know.

“We’re not gonna catch him in time!” Bill’s words filled with anger and despair.

Joey was about to respond when a high pitched cry rang out. A dark shape moved over them and a gigantic raptor swooped down across the field. It snatched up the zombie and spread its thirty foot wings as it landed atop the nearest hill.

The zombie writhed as a vast, sharp beak closed around its head, a loud crack and it slumped lifeless.

Bill and Joey’s run slowed as they watched the titanic bird devour its prey. Joey couldn’t help it as another nervous giggle escaped his lips.

“Well, Bill, we don’t have to worry about the zombie, the giant eagle ate it.”

To be continued…

Thanks for reading, any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

3 thoughts on “Fiction Friday: The Loch Mess (extract)

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