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We have reopened for short story and flash fiction submissions – head to our submissions page for more details.

Wyldblood Magazine # 4 is out now.

All new science fiction and fantasy stories featuring mad robots, monster trucks, the end of the world, trainee psychopaths and much more.

Wyld FLASH – every FRIDAY!

Curfew

Brian Maycock

Mr Wilson at Bank Lane Cottage howls at the moon.

Seeing this on the agenda his heart sank.

The Parish Council Secretary began to read the Apologies, but Taylor was not listening.

#

Mid-winter, dusk an hour away. The days, to Taylor, felt half-formed at this time of year. He had reached Bank Lane Cottage. It was a squat whitewashed building overlooking the river. Taylor knocked.

He felt his heart beating, a too rapid echo of his knuckles tapping on the door.

It cracked open an inch. Taylor recoiled at the smell that escaped: sweat, urine and decaying food.

A dishevelled old man stood inside, stony-faced.

“Good afternoon Mr Wilson.” Taylor hoped his voice sounded calm. “I’m Joshua Taylor, Community Officer for Hambleford Parish Council. May I come in?”

“Bugger off!” Mr Wilson spat the words out and began to close the door.

“Now you have been turned, you have certain rights. But you need to be registered. I have a form.” Taylor rushed the words out. But not quick enough.

The door slammed shut.

#

Though he was a man of influence Taylor did not regard himself as superior. Rather, he saw himself as a servant. Of the village, its people. And of the framework of rules which held together order.

As he made his way back from Wilson’s home, Taylor’s bleak mood worsened. Despite the rules to which he was dedicated, there were still incidents, difficulties. This hurt and saddened him.

He hesitated in his progress.

He should have been stronger. Should go back and insist Wilson comply. The rules must be followed.

He was steeling himself when a familiar figure hailed him.

Thomas Allender was the Reverend of Hambleford. A clergyman who saw the Lord in fertile soil and a hearty hymn on a Sunday morning.

“Joshua,” he called. “The bell sounds soon. We must hurry on our rounds.”

“I’m sorry I’m late,” Taylor replied. “I called on Wilson.”

Concern softened Allender’s countenance. “Do we know what happened? How he was turned?”

Taylor sighed. “We do not. Though it will all come out eventually. There will have to be a report.”

“It will have been an outsider, a stranger. One skulking in the woods.”

Taylor did not reply to the Reverend’s assertions, though he himself would pray that this was the case, this coming Sabbath. No doubt it would be woven into the sermon also.

For now, Taylor needed to put thoughts of Wilson to one side. The church bells were sounding curfew.

Taylor noted the three others already going from house to house. Smythe, Merrie and Crombie were as dedicated to the village as he and the Reverend.

Taylor halted first at the home of Mrs Greeenwold. She had been a widow this past year, left in poverty by a husband ruined by liquor.

Taylor checked the sturdy grills which covered her windows, new installed that summer, paid for by stalls at the village fete. The destitute were embraced here, not abandoned.

He checked the widow’s door. Locked firm. Satisfied, he moved on to the neighbouring house.

Between the five of them they had checked that he dwellings in the village were safely secured for the night before it fell fully dark.

They then gathered, as they always did when curfew was called, in the village square.

“All are indoors?” Taylor asked. “All windows and doors barred and bolted?”

Each of the others answered with a quiet, “Aye.”

“Then all is good,” Taylor stated.

Order would be upheld in the hours ahead, dawn would come and with it the routines of a new day.

Stars punctuated the night sky, and a quarter moon shone bright.

Called.

Taylor felt sweat dampen his brow. His skin begin to burn.

“We should take our leave,” the Reverend said.

“Agreed.”

Taylor could not see who said this. The moon was growing too bright, blinding him to all else.

Then a voice cried out. One of his companions was crying his name.

“Joshua!”

There was urgency in the voice, confusion.

Taylor rubbed at his face and for a moment the daze into which he was falling cleared, and he saw Wilson stumbling along the village green. He was naked. His pale skin was smeared with his own waste. He threw back his head, screamed. A madman’s howl.

“No!” Taylor shouted.

Wilson had not been turned. He was still just a man. One who was insane.

And a man who was not locked in his home where he would be safe as the others were, but out here, alone in the night. His flesh, warm and soft.

The Reverend was on him first, slashing at Wilson’s throat with freshly emerged claws. Then Merrie, Smythe, Crombie, fell on Wilson. Biting, tearing.

The scent of spilled blood filled the air.

Taylor wept, for what he had become many years before when, in a young man’s moment of madness, he had been tempted by a stranger’s smile to step off the path, to step into the woods.

He wept for the order that he so desperately needed. Even though a monster dwelt inside him, and each of his companions, they had sought to find a way to keep the others in the village safe.

He wept as he moved forwards, his arms and legs now sleek, pelted limbs. He bared his fangs, howled at the dazzling moon, and then he too began to feed.


Author Bio: Brian Maycock’s short stories have recently been published by Trembling With Fear, Flash Fiction Magazine and The Drabble. He is currently writing a novel. Brian lives in Scotland but is planning a  move to the South Coast of the UK. 


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The Wager

Lynne Lumsden Green

In 1804, Samuel Homfray made a bet with Richard Crayshaw, that Trevithick’s steam locomotive could haul ten tons of iron from Penydarren to Abercynon, nearly ten miles. The bet was for 500 guineas, equivalent to over half a million pounds today.
 

“Rees, can you do anything about the brake lever? It appears to be frozen,” shouted Richard Trevithick, as he struggled with the recalcitrant brake. Coal dust swirled around him. Sweat pouring down his face left him striped like a tabby cat, and his neckerchief was awash with soot and perspiration. He looked nothing like the academic inventor and tinkerer that was his daily occupation.

Rees Jones picked up a large hammer and whacked it. The lever creaked. He whacked again. The lever groaned. Jones swore. A third whack saw it give way, and Jones and Trevithick pulled on it with all their strength.

The train wheels shrieked in protest, while there was a series of loud clangs and thumps from behind them as the carriages rocked violently and slammed into each other. Sparks showered onto the verge. Trevithick winced.

“How d’you think the witnesses are doing?”

“Better’n us,” bellowed Jones. The locomotive was hauling eleven tons of coal, and five wagons carrying seventy passengers, including Homfray and Crayshaw. The wagons had been designed for carrying freight, rather than ferrying people in comfort.

Once the brake was locked into place, Jones peeked into the grill of the hotplate. The little scarlet dragon, Colby, was snorting out plenty of white-hot flames and all the metal around it glowed cherry red. Colby was purring.

Jones worried about his dragon’s ability to maintain the high pressure in the boiler. What if it developed the hiccups? And – for that matter – would the boiler survive the dragon’s flames? If the boiler exploded, even the little reptile mightn’t survive the blast.

Trevithick had no such qualms; he knew the animal could produce much hotter flames and so create much higher pressures. Hadn’t he developed Colby’s special diet for this occasion? And designed the boiler? He was more concerned about the ability of the cast iron rails to take their weight, particularly with the added stresses of the brakes. He hadn’t designed the tracks or supervised their construction.

What if the rails weren’t designed for the forces at play? If one was to crack, they might be looking at a sudden derailment and loss of lives. He decided not to share his fear with Jones; Jones had enough misgivings without adding to his list.

He fed another lump of the specially spiked coal to Rees’ tame dragon. Trust a Welshman to have a dragon for a pet. He watched it crunch up the mineral in its teeth, noting how it carefully licked up every speck. Then it huffed another liquid flame onto the boiler.

“Good boy,” crooned Rees. Colby wriggled with delight at the compliment, looking like an enamelled tin toy. The beastie was so small, to be powering such a huge vehicle.

Rees turned to his partner and asked, “Trev, d’you think we’re expecting too much from my madfall goch fach?”

“Your wee red lizard is loving every minute of this race. I’d stop in a minute if I thought he was coming to any harm.”

Privately, Trevithick was more worried about the track sloping down into Abercynon. It had been laid down first, when the workmen were still unfamiliar with the process. If there any flaws in the tracks, that was the most likely spot for it to occur. Cast iron was brittle, particularly when cold.

The chilly weather wasn’t helping with his misgivings. It wasn’t raining, but a light drizzle was making the metal tracks slippery, slippery enough to be considered treacherous, in his opinion. If he survived the race, he would look into that engineering issue. He considered the important part being ‘if he survived’.

 When the locomotive had been travelling uphill, and on the flat portions of the track, their speed had been a crawl. Now, it seemed much too fast. But there was no way of applying more pressure to the brakes. As they came down the down slope, the momentum and inertia of the locomotive pushed the vehicle to go faster. It was a case of hanging on tight and hoping for the best. Jones was swearing as only a Welshman could, musically and with great inventiveness.

The locomotive began to rock from side to side, which set all the carriages to rocking. It wouldn’t take long for enough kinetic energy to build up to toss them off the mountainside.  The groan of straining meal was rising to a moaning scream. Derailment seemed be their fate.

Even Colby could sense the danger. He blinked heavily, and then scuttled out of the hot box. He hit the floor with a thump, and left a trail of glowing footprints as he scuttled to the edge of the engine and dropped out of sight.

“Colby!” cried Rees, thinking his pet would be crushed under the wheels of the locomotive and its wagons.

“No time to fret. The beastie showed good sense, better sense than us. I’d jump like a rat from a sinking ship if I thought I’d survive the drop.”

They looked down the hillside, and far below was the township. People were lined up both sides of the tracks. There were flags and bunting and a general festive air to the crowd.

Rees swore, “We won’t be worth a sheep’s fart if we plough into that lot, Trev.”

“Great Jesus, they’d splash,” said Trevithick, green to gills. “Is there anything more we can do to slow down.”

“We’ve applied all the pressure to the brakes. With Colby gone, the boiler’s going to lose heat at a great rate.” Rees grieved. “Poor mite!”

“Poor us, and poor townies, and poor pack of witnesses if we can’t figure out how to slow this juggernaut down.”

There was a sudden jolt, accompanied by a blinding red moment of panic as the men thought the locomotive had derailed. The engine stopped it sickening rocking. A second jerk saw the wagon behind the engine cease it violent rocking, and the whole train slowed. There was another jerk, and two more of the wagons settled, while there was another slight decrease in their speed. The shriek of the brakes died down to a hum.

From behind the train, two huge red wings opened out. They filled with air and there was another lurch as they acted like a parachute. Trevithick and Jones could only glimpse the wings through the steam and sparks and smoke.

“Is your Colby a shape-changer?” asked Trevithick, while making a mental note to investigate the properties of air resistance.

“Isn’t he a clever, clever lad,” crooned the engineer. “He’s rescuing us.”

In a fountain of dark red sparks, the train slowed as it entered Abercynon, and it was doing a snail’s pace into the tramway station. Trevithick’s locomotive had completed the journey in four hours and five minutes. Success! The townsfolk were cheering themselves hoarse. Mr Homfray had won his wager.

Trevithick grinned at Jones, and said, “Not a word about problems with the brakes. Let them think it was a doddle.”


Author Bio: Lynne Lumsden Green is enjoying the ageing process, contrary to all expectations. She writes both fiction and nonfiction, and owns more books than bookshelves. She has stories and articles published by Queensland Writing magazine, DailySF, AntipodeanSF, Every Day Fiction, Aurealis magazine, and in over a dozen anthologies of fiction.

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Clone Care

Eric Fomley

We got a call on a rogue clone in downtown Tampa.

I stepped out of my squad car and met officer Rukscad just outside the alley. I shifted my bullet proof vest to ensure a tight fit; I’d seen clones go haywire and wasn’t about to be caught off guard.

“About time you got here.” Rukscad shot me that dirtbag sneer of his. His forehead was already slick with sweat from the muggy air. I couldn’t blame his irritation. Our uniforms are hot as hell. “What do we got?”

 “Restaurant owner said there was a clone going gyro in the alley behind this place. He didn’t approach or try to talk to him. He doesn’t want to trespass, just doesn’t want him here, bothering customers or disturbing the peace.”

“Yeah, looks like he’s still sitting there.” Rukscad pointed down the alley.

I looked and saw a bald white male, late thirties, early forties, sitting with his knees to his face against the brick wall behind the restaurant dumpster. I walked into the alley with my hand resting on my Glock.

Even mid-morning the alley was pretty dark, I pulled out my flashlight and shined it on the suspect’s chest.

“Sir. Sir!”

His head lolled a little. He mumbled something I didn’t catch, but he didn’t look up.

“I’m Officer Cortez, this is Officer Rukscad with the Tampa Police Department. Is everything all right?”

He moaned.

“I’m sorry, sir, we can’t understand you.”

No response. I shot Rukscad a look. Maybe he wasn’t a clone gone ‘Gyro’ and just a guy who OD’d on something.

I kneeled in front of him and gently lifted his head.

His mouth hung open, and he moaned like I was hurting him. I flashed my light in his eyes and sure enough, they were yellow with jaundice, his conjunctiva injected, full of popped blood vessels.

I almost fell backward when he looked at me.

“Yep, he’s Gyro. Call it in,” I said to Rukscad.

The science of cloning wasn’t perfected by any means, and all clones eventually went Gyro. It was some genetic imbalance in their brains that the geeks hadn’t quite figured out yet. It caused insane, violent behavior as the condition progressed in a clone’s life. The genetic issue would eventually kill the clone. But not until after the clone did a great deal of damage to themselves or other surrounding citizens. That’s why cloning was illegal. But that didn’t stop people from making them or buying them, even though it was clear what would happen when the clones gyro’d. Besides, you couldn’t distinguish a good clone from a non-clone, so it was hard to identify them until they Gyro’d. We were lucky to catch this one in the early stages.

Rukscad reached for his radio and called it in. He tilted his head and pushed two of his fingers against his earpiece, turning away from the busy street.

“Copy,” he replied. He looked at me and nodded.

My chest was tight, my stomach felt suddenly hollow. I hissed out a ragged sigh.

Rukscad reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a small thing that looked like a lipstick container.

“Hey Cortez, wanna mess with him first?”

He pressed a button on the small cylinder. It was a green laser pointer. The clone looked down at the dot on the pavement. Mesmerized, eyes tracking it like a cat.

“Come on man, don’t do him like that.”

“Chill out, dude. Why are you so soft on them? It’s not like they’re actual people.”

That pissed me off. I shot upright, fists clenched, and looked him right in the eye. My blood surged with adrenaline.

He stuck his chin out, daring me to make a move. “Real brave, sticking up for a fucking Gyro. You like people killers, huh? You get in bed with clones, Cortez?”

I tried to keep a level head. I reminded myself that there were always going to be dirt-bags like Rukscad, men and women who abused the privilege of the badge. Nothing I said or did in that moment would change that.

“Let’s just get this taken care of,” I said.

His eyes still bored into me when I grabbed a pouch from my belt and retrieved an injector pre-filled with a sedative. I turned from his burning gaze and again kneeled next to the clone.

“I’m sorry. This won’t hurt.” They told us it didn’t, anyway.

Rukscad scoffed, and I ignored him.

I inserted the syringe into the clone’s neck and slowly injected the sedative. He looked up at me. His mad eyes met mine, at peace for just a moment, before they glazed over and shut. I eased his unconscious body to the pavement and laid him on his back.

“You fucking Gyro hugger!” Rukscad said.

I clenched my fists again, and reconsidered punching him square in the face, but the ambulance showed up just in time. Two paramedics jumped out and removed the gurney. I watched them load the clone onto it and strap him down.

I couldn’t watch anymore. They’d take the clone to a hospital and euthanize him. Like he was a sick animal, recycling the usable organs.

The world was a screwed up place.

I stormed from the scene and got back in my squad car.

My hands trembled. I took several deep breaths and tried to get my breathing under control. I fumbled for my phone and texted my mom.

I love you. Thanks for always treating me right.

She never asked for her only son to die in a car accident. But I was glad she cloned me, glad to have her as a mom, and glad to try my best to fill her void. I never understood what was so illegal about that.

I looked in the rear view mirror and pulled my eyelid down. One day soon, I knew mine would be yellow too.


Author Bio: Eric Fomley is a member of SFWA. His work appears in Daily Science Fiction, Flame Tree, Galaxy’s Edge, and The Black Library. You find more of his work on his website www.ericfomley.com and follow him on Twitter @PrinceGrimdark.

We published Eric’s story War Crimes in Wyld Flash in December 2020. You can read it here.

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Wyld Flash 53 – Curfew, by Brian Maycock

We start our second year of Wyld Flash stories by going back to our roots with an unsettling tale of village life, when the sun sets and the blood-red moon rises in the chill winter sky. Curfew, by Bran Maycock is live on the website now.

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