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  Table of contents Issue Twenty DEADWORLD




rom a landscape of fast food detritus, fluffed red desert sand and digital glare their battered Ford streamed, roaring towards Hopeville. On the blurred horizon it was a grey smudge, gaining ground.

The smudge focused to a palpable fog band.

It circled the town entirely, making a mystery of tin shacks and brick townhouses which surely comprised the twee gold mining town.

Pulling frowns and concerned mumbles, still they pressed on, into the settlement, through the fog boundary, towards unknown.

Shadow outlines at every window,

through low rent suburbs they crawled, keeping low behind glass.

They saw no eyes from the sentient figures, who were watchguards from upper storey bedrooms or dank dens,

but still felt observed from every angle.

Nevada night heat baked their wheels and brains.

Quick to the high street they fled, hoping intrusion less apparent.

Then. Dread moonlight flashed from the chrome-plated Cadillac's hood, it balling down the road,

screeching to a halt,

blocking their passage.

The door swung. A boot clumped onto potholed gravel, Western spurs clinking. The creature inside emerged.

Wrapped in a coat which dangled to his feet; brimmed by black cowboy hat; cloth stretched across his upper face with only the eyeholes cut, revealing gleaming hellfire eyes, bulbs of neon pink; needlepoint grin - the man beckoned.


On deer hooves, the lovers stepped from the car. Their last joint act.

"Greeting," the demon spoke. "I'm Kircher." His voice was all metallic crunchings and molten spits. "Your arrival in Hopeville comes . . . On the cusp of my farewell to the place." That awful smile retained.

"Enroute to killing the world, y'hear, and spreading my plague of shit, your survival is irrelevant. See."

His hands balled. With mesmeric playfulness his entwined fingers consorted,

their energetic dancing bringing into existence a cosmic ball of glittering plasma.

"Yet, still . . ."

With bullet speed the ball closed the gap, leaving Kircher,

smashing into her lover's stomach. He tore.

As skin ripped and viscera splayed, she was struck by sudden absurdity. The ball

smelled of boiled peas, and ozone.

Snapping back, she dove to the car. A scrabble at the glove compartment - and she held the oiled gun

their roadtrip safety ticket

and was out, at Kircher, raising the barrel. A moment later the gun shot cracked.

Kircher's forehead opened, and his brain streak exited the back of his skull.

She had no time to savor the murderer's flop.

Back behind the wheel, she swerved around the kill scene, making for the road away.

Suburbs blurred by as she approached the fog bank. It enveloped her.

And reset her passage to the other side of town.


Three more attempts at the infernal Möbius strip. On the last, tricked by the fog once more, she found herself deposited at the town's far edge. The deceitful mist reset her escape.

Above, a plane engine roar

A fucking 747's trapped up there!

Another victim of the fog: once entered, the three circular town miles were never escaped. Soon its fuel would falter, she surmised, and downwards trail. Then, up ahead -

Kircher and his band of ghouls stood motionless.

The rotting undead, town inhabitants which he puppeted. The blood and brain gushed from his gunshot wound, staining his bared snake teeth crimson.

Her tires stained a rubber stop on the road, out there by the mine, close to the town exit.

In the face of such an army, hope wilted.

"My dear, the disease of death spreads from bite to bite," he hissed, arms outstretched. His voice stabbed through her windshield. "The best way to kill the human race? To invert it against itself. My magic threading each individual

by special kiss. Weaving a tapestry of forever night."

Not on my watch, her mind, crazed to the point of madness, dredged forth.

Her foot hit the accelerator, the car lurched forward. But Kircher was quick.

His death ball torched the air.

She swerved, energy burning metal as it rocketed past, and then she was ploughing through an army of undead, knocking them down like flesh skittles. Losing control, she broke the crowd and clipped a dying tree. The car toppled sideways, slowly, and blackness reigned.


She woke to behold dripping amber sap, dribbling down the beleaguered tree and onto her car bonnet, where it sizzled.

Clutching her bleeding head, she toppled from the car and was to her feet.

The dead were gone. Broken limbs and all, they had dragged, shuffled and tripped their way to the fog bank. A doorway had appeared there, allowing passage. Grey-hued flesh backs of the last were just visible as they lurched, torn checkered shirts, into the wider world,

the living world.

Led by a sand demon, a rural wraith, from not only another dimension but an entirely different concept of existence: they lit out on their singular mission of change. They left Hopeville behind, and went.

To the city.




James Finan has previously had a horror novel published, called RED GODS, and worked in the publishing industry for many years.

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