The rain battered against the window pane creating a dull background racket. The sky was grey, all hints of blue obscured by clouds, and the air was freezing.

The man lay in a pool of blood on the ground.

Next to him lay a phone ringing incessantly but the call went unanswered, the sound echoing off of the newspaper covered walls. Words like 'death' and 'murdered' were written across the walls as if describing the scene which lay before them. Nobody would come. Not for days or weeks.

He had been a reclusive man. Intelligent and unsociable. He shut himself away in his office and spent his days researching killings. Any killings. All killings. If he could get information on a murder he would research it. Nobody could understand why he did it. Nobody other than me.

And I had killed him.

It was a simple enough task. Just go to the shops and buy some bread. I shouldn't have been gone three hours. That's what she kept saying. Ranting and raving at me like I'd meant to be late. It wasn't my fault. She shouldn't be telling me off. If anybody was in the wrong it was the aliens. When I told her that she called me a liar. She thinks there's no such thing as aliens but I know better.

I'd been doing as she'd asked. I'd made sure to have the right money and I'd even brought an umbrella 'just in case it rained' on my five minute journey.

Then the aliens had come.

They were tall and green. Not the stupid shade of green they make them in movies though – more like the colour of mint ice cream. I like mint ice cream – I haven't had any in ages because the shop doesn't stock it anymore for some stupid reason. But even though I wanted to I couldn't go to the good shop that sold it because she wouldn't let me. She doesn't believe in aliens or mint ice cream.

They weren't slimy either. The aliens not the ice creams. They looked a bit dried out actually.

They didn't bean me up either. They were on the pavement not in a ship. But they offered to walk me to the shops to get me some mint ice cream.

That wasn't when they took me. They were nice. So she's wrong about going off with strangers to. It was the other aliens. The beige ones.

She said being scared of beige things was stupid like mint ice-cream and believing in aliens and going off with strangers.

Their ship was neon pink. That's how I knew they were evil – only the darkest, wickedest people have neon pink spaceships.

She wasn't sure where she was. The roads looked unfamiliar and she had taken far longer than she had thought she ought to.

She wasn't lost though.

She was definitely in England and she was definitely still destined for race checkpoint seven therefore she couldn't be lost. Being lost meant not knowing where you were and where you were going.

At least she thought it was. She wasn't good at those sorts of distinctions.

She also wasn't good at remembering things. If she was she might not have been in this position at all because she might have remembered where to go or to bring a map or that she needed a map.

She could figure it out though.

After all – what was the worst thing that could happen? She did think it could be that bad. She'd remember being told if something horrible might happen.

I really wish she'd stop humming that stupid song. She's horribly out of tune.

Even I could hum it better than that and I'm about as musically talented as a brick. It's a horrible song anyway.

I wish I wasn't here at all actually.

Crammed into this stupid metal box with a bunch of other random people. They're probably the people I'd be working with over the summer on the 'PAE Course' which either stands for People's Action Experience Course, or Pointless Awful Experience Course. It depends on my mood really.

I never liked lifts and I never liked strangers.

Now I'm stuck in a lift with a whole bunch of strangers.

I'm just the luckiest person on the planet.

Do you like shrubs?

He stared at the paper in shock.

He decided that this sort of opinion poll required a view of the world much higher than his own…

He scrawled down an answer and carried on.

I'd like to tell you all about what has happened to me but I can't. It's all top secret. The government is trying to cover up the whole incident you understand. So I'm presenting this as a work of fiction. It isn't. But by telling you it isn't I'm telling you it is and I'm not allowed to tell you that. So I won't say it's fact and I won't say it's fiction. I'll trust that if you read my account you'll understand. You have to understand. Because it isn't over yet.

He gasped for breath as his shoes slammed against the dirt. Some small part of his mind that was still focused on trivialities noted the fact that this would have been far easier if he had been wearing less battered trainers.

That was beside the point though.

He reached up and wiped away the trickle of blood making its way towards his eye. He had no idea where he was heading. To safety. But where was safety?

His heart was pounding but the distance between him and his opponents was spreading. He wondered about the fate of his friends but he knew that there was little he could do to help them even if they were in trouble. He tried not to think about the possibilities. His world needed to be nothing but his escape. Experience had taught him that getting sidetracked by things out of his reach would invariably end badly.

It didn't matter how far behind his pursuers were – he would always be running.

The story I'm about to tell you is, on the surface, terribly cliché. I'll warn you of that before I begin. It wouldn't be fair of me to let you begin if you are the sort of person who doesn't enjoy reading clichés.

If, however, you are brave enough to plough through the predictabilities then you may in fact find some issues of interest in the manner the wearisome episodes occurred.

Unfortunately it began on a dark and stormy night. Now most nights are dark and it isn't unheard of for nights to be stormy but this night was special.

And if you can handle this story then I think I can tell you why.

An icy chill was creeping in. The meagre shelter they huddled under was like a mouse in a cattery in its fight against the elements. It shuddered on the verge of collapse and there was nothing they could do.

It was hard to distinguish one from the other as they grouped tighter together. Moving away from the edges that provided such weak protection and towards each other in an attempt to ward off the fear, they resisted the urge to succumb to hopelessness.

Another jolt and they wondered if they were ever going to be found.

Not that they'd expected to survive out there.

Nobody ever did.


She looked over at the boy who had shouted with confusion. He was waving his arms enthusiastically and his mouth was moving at a thousand miles per hour as he chattered away to his bored looking friend.

She didn't belong in a place like this. She shoved her hands in her pockets and scowled as she attempted to calculate an exit route.

No way was she staying in this nuthouse.

She was an interesting looking child, the psychologist noted, with large blue eyes and light blonde hair in pigtails. She was dressed in pink and smiling nervously. The stereotypical sweet little kid. She couldn't have been more than eight years old.

Nowhere near old enough to be involved in the occult.

It was probably the brother's influence. That was the impression that the case notes gave off but she almost understood what prompted his decisions. As much as she disapproved, it was probably very hard for somebody with photophobia to find pleasant hobbies. The sister had simply followed to be with her brother.

The whole family was pretty messed up actually. The parents, the grandparents, the cousins. The girl had been exposed to a whole world of negative influences. It was a miracle she was even remotely normal.

Recalling her own childhood she wondered how far it was really her place to judge what was 'normal.' Should she be trying to change this child at all?

The fear came back first. Before anything else. No sights, no sounds, no smells. Only the fear.

That had been horrible. Trapped there with his fear and panic and really he didn't know what was happening and what had happened and what would happen. He didn't know all that much. What could he do? Why had it happened to him? Who had done it? His heart couldn't race though. His breath couldn't catch. He couldn't scream. He was just stuck in stasis.

The others came later. He realised that his eyes were open and the he could view the world outside. Mostly things were just white. The ceiling. Hours and hours and days and weeks of a plain white ceiling. It didn't take long for him to wish he could go back to not seeing.

The sound came next. That was better. It was never quite in the place he was being kept. Somebody was always in their moving around or talking or even simply breathing. Sometimes his friends would come and talk to him but they didn't come often. Not as much as other people's friends. He'd take what he could get though.

The best thing about sounds was the questions they answered. He would recover. They were working on it. Only a few months and they could cure him. He wasn't stuck here forever.

The smells were boring. It was always clean in their. Except when people were eating. But that was just annoying. It made him miss food.

He had his thoughts though. They came back slowly. Staring irrational but improving in quality. Eventually he found the coherency to think about how he'd ended up there.