I'm posting an excerpt here to coincide with Halloween Shorts, curated by the excellent Andrew Reid. Andrew, myself, and a cabal of other authors represented by Juliet Mushens, will be blogging short pieces of spooky fiction in the run up to World Fantasy Con. And without further ado, I give you:
All is Dust
‘I always thought the DLR was hateful,’ she says. From anyone else I’d call this pretentious, but one does not describe Amunet Kebechet in those terms. At least, not if you’ve been trying to get into her pants for the past decade. It’s fair to say I practically worship her, despite all the differences between us.
The DLR, or Docklands Light Railway, is a train service that runs through the east part of London, through districts poor, rich, and insanely wealthy, including the small banking empire of Canary Wharf. The trains themselves always run on time, even when the rest of London’s underground trains have gone tits up.
‘Why’s it so hateful, Moon?’ That’s what we call her. Moon. She despises her real name, but she’ll always be Amunet Kebechet to me. I used to sit in the row behind her in physics class, whispering her name like a mantra.
‘It doesn’t have a fucking driver.’ She turns the unlit cigarette over in her petite hands. ‘A dead train going to dead parts of London.’
She smokes as much as she swears, wears eyeliner as if it might suddenly go out of fashion, and dresses in a style that’s neither Goth nor punk. Bangles in a riot of colours add a light touch to clothes that start at slate grey and get progressively darker. She has been, is currently, and quite possibly will always be, an art student. You can afford those sort of life choices when your dad is the Egyptian Ambassador in London.
My own background is far more modest.
Throw a stone in Erith, Kent and you’ll likely hit someone called Darren. That’s the name I got lumbered with. She breezes through life on a cloud of Marlboro smoke, rejoicing under ‘Amunet’. I get Darren, or the inevitable shortening, ‘Daz’. Which is a fucking washing powder.
‘I said there’s no driver,’ she’s leaning forward now, and I find myself blinking, taking in the sight of her. Olive skin and green eyes, hair falling in wisps of bleach blonde and purple and green. She is a firework of a woman.
‘Doesn’t that bother you?’ She purses her lips. ‘That we’re just being carried through the city by a machine.’
‘Never really thought about it,’ I hear myself say. A second later I curse myself. The blokes Amunet dates have opinions about everything. They have opinions about their opinions. I have no idea why she still meets me.
Which is not strictly true.
We are a gang of four, separated by the twelve years it has been since we were thick as thieves. A more unlikely band of friends you’d struggle to find in any sixth form college. And yet that’s how we met. Amunet and I meet every few months or so, when I take her to the cinema or the Hayward Gallery. She is perpetually skint.
Member number three of our happy band is waiting for us on the platform when we step off the DLR at Greenwich. Yvonne is the matter to Amunet’s antimatter. Tall, blonde, gym-hardened body with obligatory breast enhancement, dressed to the nines in a pinstripe pencil skirt and heels. She looks like the sort of replicant the Tyrell Corporation would make if it were based in Sweden. She is pretty and generic in the way of news anchor women the world over. Yvonne grins, yet there is no humour in her eyes.
‘How’s the Met, Daz? Shot any ethnic minorities lately?’
‘I’m not armed response, I’m regular police. I don’t shoot anyone.’
Amunet lights her cigarette and presses ahead of me.
‘You still snorting cocaine off your boss’ cock every weekend?’ She pitches this question at Yvonne as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. Yvonne shivers, her smile has weakened somewhat.
‘I don’t do that anymore,’ she says quietly.
‘The coke or the married men?’ Amunet smiles like a scalpel.
‘You still fucking unsigned musicians and complaining about “the establishment”.’ Yvonne actually makes the quote signs on the air as she says it.
‘Not nearly enough of the first,’ Amunet winks at the taller woman, ‘and always too much of the latter.’ She blows out a plume of cigarette smoke. ‘What else is there?’
‘Did you forget the way to Jeremy’s house?’ I ask innocently, but Yvonne bristles all the same.
‘I was waiting for you two. I didn’t want to walk there alone. What with the jackals.’
Amunet and I stare at each other and then burst out laughing for what feels like five minutes.
‘I think I need a TENA Lady,’ gasps Amunet, struggling to contain her giggles.
‘The what?’ I manage, trying to compose myself.
‘The jackals.’ Yvonne speaks, as if to very young, profoundly deaf children. ‘Three of them escaped from London Zoo. Egyptian ones.’ She gives Amunet a piecing look, as if the art student is responsible for the missing beasts.
‘Ah, I was wondering how long I’d have to wait for the casual racism.’
‘Fine, but you won’t be laughing so much if they cross the Thames. Jackals in south London–’ Anything else Yvonne says is drowned out by the hooting and howling of, not jackals, but one Amunet Kebechet and PC Darren Butler (off duty).
Discover the fates of Darren, Amunet and Yvonne in The Book of the Dead, released 29th October. Buy it from Amazon or Spacewitch.
© 2013 All is Dust by Den Patrick. All rights reserved.