Allison felt eyes on her, peering through her window as she was jotting down the finishing touches to the latest secret language she’d invented. She turned and looked over her shoulder. Outside were mounds of rubbish that had built up from years of strikes due to a breakdown in the running of the local district. As she looked at the rubbish pressing against her window, she thought she saw a face. She caught a fleeting glimpse of a pair of eyeballs seemingly made of shards of glass and behind the broken fragments were irises, like two bloodied pools of egg yolk. Beneath, was a jaw made of chicken bones and wire mesh, drool dripping from its lips made from thick veins. Then the face disappeared into the black sea of junk.
Allison’s parents knocked on her open door and she raced over to them and ensconced them in a desperate hug.
‘What’s wrong darling?’ said her mum.
‘I saw a face out there, a horrible, horrible face in the rubbish. It was looking at me,’ said the twelve-year-old.
‘It’s OK,’ said Allison’s dad. ‘It’ll just be a rat or a fox rummaging around.’
‘No, no, it wasn’t either of those, it was… almost human, but not.’
‘Allison,’ said her mum, ‘come sit with me and your dad on the bed.’
Allison did as she was told. Her mum stroked her cheek and gently curled a strand of her daughter’s hair around her ear.
‘We have to talk,’ said her dad. ‘Now you know how much we love you and want you to continue to learn, because your mind is like a sponge – you’re so bright, just so clever. But we need help. We can’t provide anymore, and we’re weak. We’ve tried to keep you strong and well fed so you can thrive. Now we need you to return the favour.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘We need you to go out there and scavenge for us.’
‘But, but, I wouldn’t know what to do.’
Allison’s dad just stared unwaveringly into her eyes and said, ‘You can do it.’
His face was gaunt and he had a few month’s old growth of beard.
‘But what about the monsters?’ Allison pleaded.
Allison’s dad stood up and paced around the room.
‘Surely you’re too clever to believe in such silly things.’
‘Honey,’ said Allison’s mum, ‘please understand, your dad and I are just hungry. You have to help.’
Allison buried her head into her mum’s shoulder and muttered, ‘I can’t do it.’
‘Please think about it, for us,’ her mum said, pushing her away. Allison’s parents left the room and she lay on her bed. She tried not to look out of the window – even with the blinds down she felt threatened – and gazed at the lizard mobiles twirling above her bed. She was taken away by how the moonlight seeping into the room played with the paper cut-outs. She could hear her parents argue in their room down the hall deep into the early hours. She didn’t sleep at all that night.
The next morning as Allison left her room to go to the bathroom, she found a pair of garden gloves, Wellington boots, a roll of bin bags and a hunting knife waiting for her at the foot of her door. Allison picked up the objects and placed them on her bed. She mentally prepared herself to go out of the front door for the first time in a couple of years. She didn’t see any other option.
As she pushed open the front door a thick stench made her lightheaded. Sickening fluids emanated from the trash and she gagged. She tried to climb through the pile but the debris was tightly packed. She decided to go back but the front door had been closed and locked behind her. She had no alternative but to burrow her way to the top. She clambered through the mess, losing a boot in the process. Finally, she reached the peak of the junk and gasped for air as if she’d been trapped under a body of water for several minutes. She tried to get a solid footing as vapours rose and swirled in the breeze. She could see the tops of the houses in the street – all crowded by refuse. She felt a surge of energy as the sun hit her pallid skin. She got to work, faithfully following her parents’ orders, looking for dead rats and squirrels and any scraps of food she could find. Flies buzzed around her head and she swiped at them but there were too many to fight off. Seagulls squawked and scoured the dirt. Allison brandished her knife and lunged at one and then another but they glided out of reach with ease. After an hour of struggle, she fell to her knees and cried, ‘I can’t do this!’
Then she heard a noise, a scraping of nails against chewed up scrap metal. She turned and caught sight of a crawling body – an alligator, maybe, she thought. She didn’t know whether to run or chase it. So, she fought her fear and followed the creature in the direction it had scuttled, making sure to step lightly. But it was no use – she kept stumbling in the trash. The beast had disappeared down a hole near the Jansen’s’ household. No one had seen them in years, just like every other household on the street. They had a boy named Ted but she didn’t really know him. Allison tramped after the beast, feeling unusually fearless, determined to do her parents proud and kill something that could possibly feed the family for a number of days. Her bootless foot got stuck in a bucket of muddy rain water and finally she lost sight of her prey. She found herself by the upper window of the Jansen’s’ bedroom. As she leant against the wall, on the hill of dirt, she heard voices.
‘Master,’ said a woman, perhaps Mrs Jansen, but Allison couldn’t be sure as she didn’t dare peek into the window lest she be sighted. ‘Here is your water.’
‘This water is warm,’ said a man’s voice, ‘do I have to continually put up with tepid water? Where’s the boy? Make him get me a nice glass of fresh rain water because it seems you are incapable.’
‘He’s gone Charles, you know that.’
‘Well I want my water and meat, get me meat too.’
‘We have no food. Would you like me to strip for you?’
‘No, that won’t be necessary. I just want my water.’
Allison couldn’t resist peeking inside the Jansens’ bedroom window. By the bed, she saw Mrs Jansen on one knee in a ripped dress that exposed a single breast. Her body was emaciated. She held a glass of water aloft, offering it to her husband who lay across the bed wearing a paper crown – the type that one would find in a Christmas cracker. Mrs Jansen’s hand was shaking and spilled some fluid.
‘Will you look at that,’ said Mr Jansen, ‘how can I entrust you with the responsibility of bringing me water? This is no good.’
Unable to find sure footing, Allison’s body gave way from under her and her head banged against the window. The Jansens were shaken and turned towards her. When they realised someone was spying on them they rushed to the window and banged against it, shouting, ‘Who are you? What do you want?’
Allison did her best to hustle away from the scene, tripping over refuse – sweat soaking her tracksuit. Finally, she reached her home. She wasn’t going to do any more hunting that day. She’d done all that could be expected of her. The problem was the mission was a complete failure, as she had collected nothing to eat. Not even a mouse. But she’d had enough, her parents would just have to accept that. The problem now was how would she get back inside her home. All of the top floor windows were covered with litter. It was then she realised she would have to return the way she came out, by ferreting through the hole she’d created from the front door. Luckily it was easier this time as the opening she’d created was still largely intact. So, she took in a series of deep breaths and began to crawl down. The front door was unlocked and she let herself in. She stood on the door mat, dripping with sewage, and dropped her knife and bin bags to the floor.
Her parents rushed to greet her and gathered her up in a loving hug.
‘Oh, Allison,’ said her mum, wiping dirt from her daughter’s cheeks, ‘we were so worried about you.’
Allison’s dad picked up a loose bin bag and inspected its contents.
‘Did you get anything?’ he said. Allison could see the swollen veins around his throat.
‘No, I couldn’t, I told you I’d be no good.’
Allison’s dad stomped away.
‘Don’t worry, darling,’ said Allison’s mum, ‘you did great. And never mind your dad, he’s just ratty. We both love you and are so proud of you, you know that?’
After her mum had tucked Allison into bed that night, she recalled the eyes that had appeared in the rubbish outside the night before. She placed her hands over her face but it wasn’t enough to quell the fear so she climbed under her bed and huddled into a ball, pulling a blanket across her body. She thought about her day – the smell that still clung to her body, the crocodile-like form she had crossed paths with and her strange interaction with the Jansens. She remembered the conversations she had with her pal Billy who lived next door. They would regularly sneak onto their roofs at night, in their pyjamas, when their parents were asleep. They conversed into the dawn using secret languages Allison had learnt. But for the most part they spoke in Pig Latin as Billy found it difficult to keep up with Allison’s more complex dialects. She vividly remembered the fresh summer’s night with the moon fully exposed, flushing out all the animals in the neighbourhood, howling feverishly. As they perched on the summit of their respective buildings, one particular conversation they’d had, roughly three years ago, stood out in her mind.
They would greet each other the same way every time they met on their roofs, ‘Ehay illybay?’
And Billy would reply, ‘oodgay anksthay.’
But this one time Billy said he wanted to speak in English. He seemed unusually depressed.
‘I couldn’t find Randall today. We agreed to meet to go hunting for our families. I don’t want to think about it but I’m dreading he’s gone.’
‘How do you mean, gone?’ Allison said.
‘Well, I guess, I mean escaped. Haven’t you heard about the neighbourhood kids disappearing? I guess it’s a good thing really. Families in this area have become like despots, forcing their children to compete for scraps in the streets and when they fail they do terrible things to them. Seems like everyone is losing their minds. Except your parents. You’re so lucky, you’ve been sheltered from this and long may it continue. But I have to tell you Allison I don’t know how much longer I can survive.’
‘You mean you want to escape? But what about me? I’ll be all alone.’
‘I don’t want to go but sometimes there’s no choice. I’ve been out in dirt hills hunting for my parents a long time now and something tells me I can’t keep on like this without getting in trouble.’
‘I don’t understand.’
‘Finally, something you don’t get. Give it time and you’ll see. No one knows when the breakdown of our street will be set right. And who knows what is going on in the surrounding districts, or the world for that matter. You know Allison you’re going to have to step up and be counted. Your intelligence mustn’t be wasted. At some point people will look to you for direction.’
Six months after that conservation, Billy ceased meeting with Allison, no matter how many times she waited for him at their usual meeting point on the roof, he never showed. She assumed he’d gone, just like he said he would, whatever that meant. But something nagged away at her. She knew something was desperately wrong.
Allison climbed out from under the bed. She walked across the hall and knocked against her parents’ door timidly and then louder until her father woke and came to meet her, bleary eyed.
‘Am I the only one left?’
‘What do you mean?’ Allison’s dad said, covering his mouth as he yawned.
‘I mean what do you know about the other kids in the street?’
‘I assume they’re trying to help their family survive just like you are.’
‘So, you don’t know if they’ve escaped?’
‘No – what? What are you talking about?’
‘What about the Jansens, do you know anything about them?’
‘What is all this Allison? Listen, I don’t know what’s going on with the neighbours. We’re completely hemmed in, any contact we had was lost a long time ago. Tell me, what happened while you were out there?’
‘Nothing. But just seeing all the houses from a closer view got me wondering who was in them and what their situation was.’
‘Well clear it from your mind. Forget about them. We have to face reality on our own. Now get some sleep, you’ve got a long day ahead of you tomorrow.’
‘You’re sending me out there again? Please, please let me just get back to my studies.’
‘When you find something to eat you can rest, for a while anyway. But this is your life now, Allison. I’m sorry.’
The next day as Allison was preparing to go outside through the front door she turned to her parents, who were watching by the stairs, and said, ‘There’s no way I’m going out this way again. It’s murderous.’
‘Well, honey, there’s no choice,’ said her mum. ‘Just do as you’re told. Please.’
‘No, I have another way.’
Allison led her parents to the first-floor landing. She reached up to the hatch in the ceiling with a pole and hauled it down, unveiling metal steps that stretched out as she pulled.
‘What’s going on?’ Allison’s dad demanded.
Allison waved her parents to follow her as she climbed the stairs. In the loft, sun poured in through the sky light illuminating old paintings of Allison’s forefathers, images reflecting who she was and who she would become, their eyes shining like hers. She stood on a crate, opened the window and climbed outside. Her dad followed, leaving her mum behind, swiping at cobwebs caught in her hair.
On the roof, houses stretched out for miles, isolated and anonymous. Allison took a seat and said, ‘It’s not too far down to jump from here, the trash will cushion my fall.’
Her dad grimaced from the rancid smell and looked around. He saw a toy donkey with its eyes pulled out of its sockets laying by Allison’s foot. There were sweet wrappers scattered in the open gutter.
‘You’ve been coming up here a lot, I see,’ he said in accusatory tone.
‘Does it really matter? Anyway, on my way back I’ll climb up the drain pipe,’ Allison replied.
She slung on her ruck sack in which she now kept her hunting things and leapt off the edge of the roof landing in a pile of sludge.
‘Don’t come back before sunset,’ Allison’s dad called after her. ‘And be careful, honey.’
Allison had taped bin bags up to her thighs and wore a lightweight waterproof jacket this time. As she waded through the muck she kept her eyes peeled for any unusual motion amongst the litter. But after a couple of hours, as the sun beat down ferociously upon her, she slumped into the dirt and splashed some water on her face from a puddle. It was then she saw movement from a couple of hundred yards away. Allison struggled to make out the form because of the glare of the sun – the atmosphere shimmering in the heat – but it was moving towards her at some pace. As the thing closed in on her, Allison scrambled to her feet and wielded her knife. She could hear it wheeze, as if it was uncomfortable in its own skin, struggling to function, and this was further confirmed as Allison made out a limping lizard-like physique, without a tail, heaving its body towards her. As it neared, she could see its arms and legs were short and jutted out from its elongated torso which seemed to consist of a patchwork quilt of substances – iron shards and blubber, weeds and denim. But its neck propped up a humanoid head – round with sprouts of hair protruding from its deformed skull. The beast was ten yards from her now. Allison gritted her teeth and took a step nearer to the creature. She refused to fail this time.
Close up, she could see the beast’s eyes consisted of silver mercury, swilling about in split open tin cans. It let out an anguished roar. The beast stood on its hind legs, all seven-foot-tall of it, exposing a ripped t-shirt on its chest. Allison could make out a picture of a red horse emblazoned on the front. Sceptic wounds could be seen on its belly and brutal scars indicated a life of battle. It finally wrapped its brillo pad tongue around a syllable, saying, ‘A-a-a.’
When the beast finally said, ‘All-i-i-sooooon,’ she gasped, freaked out and then gave a prolonged high-pitched squeal. She turned and ran, leaving the creature stunned. It collapsed to its feet and growled.
It was early, hours before she was expected home but she had to go back and absorb what had just happened in a place of safety. Allison threw glances over her shoulder to see if the creature was giving chase. But she seemed to be in the clear. She couldn’t believe what she’d just witnessed but there was something else that nagged away at her, beyond the fact she had discovered a new life form who knew her name; it was the horse t-shirt wrapped around its stomach. Because she recognised that shirt. It looked exactly like the one her friend Hayley, from a couple of doors down the street, wore almost daily. Her parents had to blackmail her with cheese puffs so they could detach it from her body and wash it. She hadn’t seen Hayley in a couple of years, since the kingdom of dirt had cut off the neighbourhood. Could this monster, maybe bred from within the bowels of the junk, really have eaten Hayley and absorbed the t-shirt somehow? Maybe the kids in the area hadn’t escaped, like Billy had said, but were being devoured. And if Hayley was gone that would mean Billy was too and everyone else – all her friends wiped out.
She shimmied up the drain pipe lining her house, double checking every few seconds to see if the beast had followed her. But it was nowhere to be seen and then it dawned on her that she was returning home empty handed again. How was she going to explain this to her parents? So, taking a seat on the roof she took a moment to contemplate her missing friends, their journeys and the brutal ends to their innocent lives. Families destroyed – spiralling into madness. Or that’s how it seemed. She looked over to the next roof where Billy would sit and play cards, smoke his mum’s cigarettes and laugh. Tears poured down her face. She couldn’t sit there any more, the memories were too vivid and her imagination took her places too dark for her to handle.
She picked up her defaced donkey which had been there since Billy was around. It had seen so many sunsets and sunrises. She threw it onto the mass of junk. But she realised now it wasn’t just discarded filth that existed below, but a heaving body of life.
She would have to go inside and tell her parents everything and how all was lost. She’d seen the eyes of the devil and it was crawling around outside their windows.
Inside her room Allison unwrapped the bin bags from her legs and dumped her rucksack on the swivel chair by her desk. She could hear her parents’ voices echo through the house emerging from the kitchen. She descended the stairs certain they were unaware she had returned. She stopped outside the kitchen door, unsighted, and prepared a speech. She would plead for forgiveness and say that there were monsters outside, real live monsters and that they had to get out of the neighbourhood somehow, otherwise there was no hope.
Then she heard her mum, ‘We can’t keep sending her out like this, it isn’t fair.’
‘We’re just being practical,’ said her dad, ‘she’s young and fit and we’ve run out of food. That much is true. I mean we’re practically dead on our feet. No, we’re doing nothing wrong.’
‘But how can we, in all good conscience, send her out there knowing she could be in danger?’
‘I don’t know what to say, other than this is the result of the agreement we made with the rest of the street and now we have to live with the consequences. Who could have known just how misjudged it would turn out to be? But that’s how it goes sometimes.’
‘I never made any agreement, it was you and your drinking buddies who thought you could take on every district in the city and go it alone, trying to seize power and, because of your egomania, go against every notion of common sense. And now look, all our resources cut off, children in the street missing and last I heard everyone’s losing their mind because everyone’s too stubborn to back down and ask for help.’
‘I know, but now all we can do is our best to survive.’
‘Ok, but why does our daughter, who has done nothing to hurt anyone, have to be sent out there risking her life for us. It should be you going out there, you’re the man of the house for God’s sake.’
‘You know I have a bad leg.’
‘OK you want to know the real reason, I’ll tell you. When a community like ours disintegrates it is the leaders who will guide us out of the darkness, and not only am I the leader of this household but I’m the leader of this street. So as much as I want Allison safe, I need to be protected more urgently.’
Allison had heard enough. She crept back up the stairs and then jogged back down again, stepping heavily so she could alert her parents to her presence and ensure they didn’t cotton on to the fact she had heard every word of their conversation. As she entered the kitchen her parents were wearing prizewinning smiles on their faces, though the twitches jolting across their cheeks revealed their guilt. Allison felt like letting rip, exposing her parents’ lies, unmasking the fact that she’d been used, that they’d treated her like dirt. But when she looked into their eyes, seeing their weakness and then noticing their swollen hungry bellies, she couldn’t help but take pity on them. They were her only family after all. So, when her dad asked her if she had caught any food and then told her she would have to go out into the street again tomorrow, and again and again until she had success, Allison, feeling the strain of her own hunger pangs streak through her body, knew she couldn’t refuse.
The days passed and Allison dutifully braved the decay outside as rain drenched the street and time after time she failed to capture anything resembling food. Thankfully she had no run-ins with any beasts either, though she felt ready to fight when she next crossed paths with one – sharpening her blade on discarded metal and practicing her stabbing motions.
One day a ray of sunshine broke through a cluster of roaming clouds, as if it was a sign from God, and she saw a rabbit nestling in a puddle, still, with matted hair. She knew this was her chance. Gingerly she tiptoed towards her victim. The rabbit seemed to be unaware of Allison’s presence, motionless, not even shifting a millimetre. This was a sure thing. As rain unfurled again, blinding Allison temporarily she swung her knife at the animal and sliced through it with ease. Expecting blood, instead she got white padded stuffing. The rabbit was a toy. She dropped her knife into the mire but promised herself this time she wouldn’t cry. Yet she couldn’t control the trembling of her bottom lip. It was then that she felt breathing over her shoulder sounding like the rumbling of a distant train. She turned and a beast with its mouth gaping open – as if its jaw had been dislocated to reach so wide – edged towards her. She was paralysed with fear and before she knew it, the beast’s tongue had wrapped around her body and she was swallowed whole. The monster’s cheeks released saliva that swirled around the girl’s fragile body, burning Allison’s exposed head and limbs. Allison inhaled the foul-smelling contents of the beast’s innards – the slurry and the slime – feeling like she was being fermented in a washing machine. She passed out. The stomach was less of a physical lifeform but an ecosystem of cutlery, lighter fluids, cables, satellite dishes, aerosol cans, books, mirrors, Christmas trees, old pennies, toy cars, dice, cocktail dresses and bugs feeding on all the crap – all wrapped up in the lining of the gut that was more like a cage than soft tissue.
Some hours later Allison was reborn from the belly of the beast, excreted from its arsehole. Allison struggled out of the shit and tried to stand but her legs, lined with blood, sweat and mucus failed to respond to her orders. She was alone. The beast that had swallowed her was nowhere in sight. She was grateful for that because she needed to find her bearings. She had to find a mirror. She had to know what she’d become and what all this meant. But the most important thing was that she was still alive. She found a clear pool of rain water nearby. In the water’s reflection the first thing she noticed was her head. She could recognise her face despite it being melted and distorted, as if she was a victim of botched plastic surgery. Tufts of hair remained, held back by a hair clip in the shape of a kitten. But her eyes, her eyes! They were metronomes, swinging back and forth like windscreen wipers. Yet somehow, she could still see. She wasn’t scared. If anything, she felt an all empowering rage, an irresistible force convincing her she shouldn’t be in this situation.
As she got used to her new figure in the water, beginning to admire her stubby arms and legs, the shape of her body fanning out like an accordion, she noticed two more sets of eyes reflecting in the water behind her. She turned and hissed, facing down the intruders. They were beasts too, composed of trash just like her. When she stood on her hind legs and emitted a vicious roar from the base of her stomach, shaking the scrap metal inside her like a ferocious wind tearing through trees, the beasts bowed their heads and took two steps back.
One of the beasts, with playing cards for eyes and cigarette butts lining its yellow teeth, burped then snarled, ‘Itsyay okyay Allisonyay.’
‘B-b-ooly? Biiilly?’ said Allison struggling to annunciate.
‘Yes. It’s me. And this is Hayley, remember? Try not to speak now. You’ll get the hang of it though. Not everyone of us can talk but I know you will be able to. You’ll be highly skilled, I’m sure. I’ll explain everything in due course, but first we must prepare our revenge before we are all wiped out. We’ll need your help. Come home with us. You need to feed and sleep.’
Billy leapt into the air and like a slinky falling down the stairs, dived into the junk beneath him. Hayley did the same and then Allison followed suit. They slid underground, back to their base in the abyss of the dirt, wrapping their bodies around each other into a tight bundle. They fed off their fellow creatures’ carcasses, comforted by their mutual warmth and the joy of being with creatures of their own kind. Allison fell into a deep slumber for who knows how long. When she woke, dozens of alien eyes were watching her. Close and penetrating. She could feel their bodies intertwined with hers, like a brood.
Billy whispered, ‘We are the missing children from the neighbourhood. We haven’t just been eaten by the monsters; we are the monsters. Our parents didn’t know but they were aware there was mortal danger from strange creatures outside, yet still they sent us out into the rubbish to carry out what they were too scared to do themselves. We’ve become these beasts, still carrying some of the traits that made us who we were when we were humans, yet now we can only survive in rubbish, and so we are cast out from our homes, never to return, stuck in the waste forever. Anyway, let me introduce you to some of our gang.’
Billy, so verbally adept, familiarised Allison with her old friends, some of which she hadn’t heard of or seen in years. Each of them had varying degrees of speaking abilities. Most grunted when addressed. Others tried to pronounce her name and greet her with a hello but they were clumsy and indecipherable. Of course, they were so different in their new misshapen forms and yet they were still strangely familiar, their essence remaining. She was with friends.
Billy directed everyone’s attention to the matter at hand – vengeance.
‘We don’t have much time before our habitat is destroyed by bulldozers,’ he said. ‘The nearby district is finally taking action and with it our home. Given we can’t survive outside of the world of rubbish, we will all surely die. So, we have one last chance for retribution against our parents who threw us into the wasteland knowing full well what would happen to us.
Allison tried to speak but instead of a fluent stream she spoke in hesitant bursts. ‘My Parents Didn’t…. Know… Yes… They… Sent… Me… Out… To…. Hunt…. But… They… Didn’t… Know… About… Any… Monsters.’
‘I know that’s easier for you to believe,’ said Billy, ‘but they knew. Why do you think they never go out? We need your help to get them back.’
‘I… Will… Once… You… Prove… It….’
‘Prove your parents are liars? I can’t make any promises, but I have an idea what we can do. Follow me.’
Billy led Allison to her home, the first time she’d been back since her transformation. Billy told her to burrow down into the rubbish and reveal herself to her parents by the kitchen window. She did as she was told and loitered, spying into her kitchen. Then her mum entered the room and tried to suck a few drops of water out of the tap, but to no avail. Allison’s massive physique was resting against the window just above her mum’s head and yet still she hadn’t noticed. Allison tapped on the window and her mum looked up. She howled in terror.
‘It’s one of them! You murdered my baby! Killed my sweet child!’
‘No… Mum,’ said Allison. ‘It’s… Me… I… Am… Your… Daughter.’
Allison’s dad entered the room.
‘Oh, please kill it,’ said her mum.
Billy, out of sight, beckoned to Allison, who was distraught, and said, ‘Now you see. They knew. Everyone on the street knows the danger they were putting us in. The only people who didn’t were the kids who were sent out to meet their fate. Now we have to hatch a scheme before the bulldozers come next week. You do want revenge, don’t you?’
‘Yes… I… Have… A… Perfect… Idea.’
The creatures led by Allison set about doing what their parents had ordered them to do, what had caused this tragic situation in the first place; they would hunt. But now they were head of the food chain and scavenging came easy. They caught ravens, rats, cats and raccoons and anything else they could find with blood running through its veins.
Allison ordered her friends to dangle the carcasses outside the windows of each household with the objective of luring the parents into the junk so the creatures could attack them on their turf. Each monster waited outside what they used to call their own home. This meant every beast would gain its own personal reprisal.
The day came and Allison watched from a distance near her family home, camouflaged by trash. She saw her parents notice the bait that rested by the living room window. They entered into an animated discussion. Finally, they fell quiet and her dad struggled to prise open the window but it had been shut for so long it had been warped by the damp. Her dad then picked up a lamp and smashed it through the glass. As trash fell into the room he reached out to the bait. Allison thrust forward and seized hold of his arm with her mouth. He screamed in pain. Allison severed his arm from his shoulder and then dragged him further into the waste. Allison’s mum was hysterical, not knowing where to place herself. Then Allison heard mechanised rumblings. She left her dad’s dissected body amongst the muck and bore her way to the surface. There she met Billy who said, ‘They’ve come a day early. This is it; the rubbish will be gone and we’ll all die. Did you get your parents?’
‘Yes, well, somewhat,’ speaking more fluently now.
‘Me too. There isn’t enough time now to finish the job.’
‘I don’t know about you, but I’m going home,’ said Allison.
‘I’m going to stay and watch for a bit,’ replied Billy.
She entered through the broken window passing her dad who was trapped in the debris, bleeding to death. She could hear her mum upstairs crying. As Allison’s feet touched the living room carpet she could feel the life-force drain from within her. She knew she didn’t have much time. She climbed the stairs. Her mum was under her bed but Allison wasn’t interested in her any more. Allison went to her room and looked out of the window. At the far end of the street were three bulldozers crashing through the rubble, clearing space at the entrances of homes, allowing people to escape. Many of them were maimed by the monsters – just how it had been planned. But nothing could help the beasts as the only environment that could support them was quickly being destroyed.
She spotted Billy as the mountains of junk were being disassembled. He was on the peak of the rubbish tip and looking straight back at her. He raised himself onto his hind legs and let out a clarion call. He plunged back into the waste, never to be seen again. Allison shut the blinds and collapsed on her bed. She felt uncomfortable on this child’s mattress. It no longer fitted her malformed body and she’d outgrown it in more ways than one. But as her breathing became more constricted and the movement of the pendulums in her eyes slowly ceased, she remembered her childhood and her friends and couldn’t think of a better time to die.
About the Author: Tim Frank’s short stories have been published in journals many times including Bourbon Penn, Bartleby Snopes, Thrice Fiction, Foliate Oak and Able Muse. Tim Frank is an upcoming writer specialising in the comic, the dark and the surreal. He has written a semi-autobiographical novel, Devil in my Veins, and is currently writing a sci-fi thriller novel.