After picking up this anthology, and reading through a couple of the poems, I really loved how
modern, fun and exciting the themes were. I especially connected with ‘Peas’, for its originality,
‘Pockets’, just because of how humorous it is, and ‘Afro Hair Haiku’, because of its relatability (I have
afro hair too!).
Altogether, it is an amazing anthology and I would recommend it for children, teens and adults!
It was almost 500 years since the father had been taken from us. And it would be the 500-year mark when we would take our revenge.
The familiar repulsive aroma of smoke awoke me early on the last day of 1856. I yawned and proceeded to search through my small pile of clothing and find my foul-smelling work outfit. I stepped down the stairs, misplacing my feet several times. My eyes drooped as tiredness took over me and once again I missed the step but this time it cost me. The world appeared to turn upside down and then darkness.
“Jack! Jack!” Slowly I came to my senses, the low murmur of chatting filled my ears and the strong smell of tobacco entered my nose. My eyes fluttered as they adjusted to the dim light that surrounded me. “Jack, thank the lord you’re okay, there is only a few hours until the big day!” Came a calm beautiful voice. I felt at ease that someone sounding so kind was here with me, but then it dawned on me. Where am I and who is Jack? I finally fully opened my eyes and painstakingly slowly I turned to look at the person who was talking. To my surprise, she was staring directly at me.
“Jack” she said seemingly frustrated. “Did you hear what I said!”
I looked up. “Who is jack?”
The lady cocked her head “You may have hit your head but you haven’t lost your personality.”
I shook my head “What happened to me?”
“the doctor said that you must have been drugged, someone is trying to stop us Jack, someone knows what we are up to.” She said.
I rolled onto my back. It must be a dream. I yawned and the darkness consumed me once again.
Blackout. I looked around but I could not see nor hear a thing. After waiting patiently for several minutes for my eyes to adjust to the lighting, I became extremely nervous as a huge sense of foreboding crossed my mind. I desperately tried to move but everything other than my eyes were fixed tightly in position. I sobbed, what had I done before? What was ‘john’ going to do that was so bad? What would happen to me? I fell silent. A familiar smell. I sniffed. Why did I recognise it? I returned from my trail of thought as suddenly I heard something. I viciously tugged at the bars holding me down. I had to get out. The door suddenly swung open. A hugely built man entered the room, followed closely by two women. I strained to get a better look but the strap stopped me.
“Hello Jack.” Came a deep husky voice.
“Look I don’t know who jack is, I was in an accident and I don’t know who I am!” I screamed.
“Okay then, don’t tell us and John will come for you” the huge man said.
John. I thought. Why did that name ring a bell. I dismissed the thought and flipped back to reality.
“Jack, yes that’s right it’s me, remember me? You fell down the stairs and I was the one who drugged you.” Came the calm voice of the person in the hospital, but it was no longer a kind voice, it was harsh and malicious.
“Where am I?” I shouted.
“The tower of London.”
I thought that she must have been joking but after a short period of silence I knew that I had thought wrong. I closed my eyes. That smell from earlier. I remembered where I knew it from. An ancient script that I had when I was younger, it had that same smell. With a small ounce of hope I looked up but they were gone.
Tap. I looked up. Tap. I looked around searching for the answer to this sound.
“He he he!” screamed a petrifying voice. I froze and sat back. I remembered everything. John ii king of France. How his last wishes were that in 500 years our family would take our revenge for what the English did to him in the tower of London. How all the lies were just a cover up. How John our father had laid a curse on England. I sat in shock. I didn’t fulfil his wish and he was back, and he was not happy. Something sharp scratched on the door. Suddenly all of my metal grips seemed to loosen. I sat in relief, he must have seen what happened and forgiven me. With a tug my grips broke free. I sighed in relief and turned around. He was there. His dark brown hair in patches dotted over his head where it had been pulled out those years ago, a distorted face which seemed to be stuck in one position. The man had an old blue robe on which was tore all around the bottom.
“I’m so sorry sir it wasn’t my fault…”
He looked at me in the eye “I’m not john, I’m one of the ravens at the tower.”
Lightning tears past my barred window and droplets of rain fly through the slits between the sturdy metal poles. I shiver, and wish for the thousandth time that there could at least be some shutters to keep out the cold. Staring at the ceiling of my prison cell, I wonder what else I could have done to avoid this. But nothing comes to me. If I hadn’t tried to steal from the master, my family would have surely starved. In fact, they probably are now. That’s the irony of it all. By rebelling, I have only made their situation worse. I shiver again, but not from the cold. The baron had told me that I would be an “example to the town” to show what happened to thieves. And we all know what happens to thieves-execution. It looks like it’s going to be a long night…
A harsh knock on my cell door drags me out of my nightmare-filled slumber. The door is flung open and I am confronted by my jailors-fat, greedy men who leach off of the poor’s hard labour. “C’mon then,” grunts the one closest to me. “Let’s get moving. “ I sigh and get up from the springy bed, running my hands through my dark, tangled hair. How is this happening? I am led through the vast corridors and chambers of the master’s mansion until I am finally bought to the main doors, where the master is waiting for me. He is also fat, extremely so, and wears grand orange robes with intricate lace decoration. He has a mop of greasy, ginger hair and a pompous moustache, which sits above a mouth of sickly yellow teeth. All in all, not a very pleasant person. Especially when that person wants you dead.
Outside of the mansion was a set of gallows. They were made of old- splintered wood, and inspired fear in every passer-by. I was marched outside, to see a huge crowd awaiting my arrival. I quickly scan the sea of faces, but my family do not appear to be there. I don’t blame them. No-one wants to see their father die. I am led up the stairs, and the tension is so thick that you could cut it with a knife. Awaiting me at the gallows is another man, tall, stocky and wearing a black execution mask. I shudder in anticipation. Emotions whirl through my mind, pain, anxiety, nervousness and fear all mingling together to form a cold sweat on my brow. The master walks to the edge of the platform to address the crowd as I am shoved towards the executioner, who begins tying a noose round my trembling neck. It would be futile to resist. “Ladies and gentlemen,” booms the master’s deep, sonorous voice. “Today we would like to present to you… some entertainment. And a fine example. Yes, you see, the man about to be hung, a certain Lee Edwards, has committed some heinous crimes against my divine rule. So he will be posing as an example…” the voice drones on in my head as the noose is tightened, and I feel the rough rope constrict my breathing already. It is looped through the gallows, and I realise with a sickening shock that all the man has to do is tug the rope, and my life will be ended. Just like that. So simple… “And therefore, let the entertainment begin!” I brace myself as the rope is heaved upon by the man, lifting my thin and frail body well off the floor. Already I can feel the lack of oxygen, and I gasp to breathe, but nothing is let through my restricted windpipe. I raise my hands to my rope shackles, and try desperately to remove them, but to no avail. They are as tight and steady as metal itself. My pulse slows, and it is like time is stopping and speeding up at the same time. I don’t know how long I hang for, but my vision begins to blur, and I feel my eyes slowly closing as I struggle to keep them open. Everything goes black…
TWANG! The sound of arrow being flung from bow slices through the air, and I fall onto the hard wooden ground, gasping for air. I can breathe! I lift my head to see that from the audience an arrow has been leased towards the knot of my loose, splitting it and freeing me. “Traitor!” bellows the Master, in a wild fury at my release. “You insolent swines! You betraying little…” The master words are cut short by a large, black arrow protruding from his flabby chest. He tries to speak, but no words come to him and he is left stammering and stuttering in utter disbelief. Then he topples forwards, frothing at the mouth, into the front row of the crowd. 3 more arrows are leased, striking each of the King’s men with perfect accuracy. There is utter silence for a second. And then cheering erupts. The poor people who had been so greatly oppressed by their “Master” were now free of his tyrannical reign. Through the swathe of people strode a man, coated in a green cloak and simple black garments. Vaulting onto the stage and tipping back his hood to reveal locks of blonde, untidy hair, the stranger grinned. “Citizens!” he cried, instantly silencing the mob of hysterical peasants. “You, we, are free!” Cheering erupted once more, and the grin stretched wider across his perfect face. “We are free to work hard! To be democratic! To build wealth, and status, not according to who we are, but according to what we do! Now go! Tell your family, your friends, tell everyone! We are free from the master’s tyrannical reign!” Another cheer, and the mob began to charge back towards the town, eager to revel in their new-found freedom. Apart from me. I am standing there stunned. Because as I stare at the stranger, I can clearly see the tattoo on the side of the back of his neck. The mark of Az’guldoth. Az’guldoth the warlock. He turns to me, and smiles, chillingly. “I guess it’s your lucky day,” he spits from his still grinning lips. “Go. Go and enjoy your freedom. What are you waiting for?” I turn to leave hesitantly, and he grins at me again, piercing through to my very soul. I jump down and sprint off towards home as fast as my legs can carry me. “Whilst it lasts,” I hear him mutter.
I wake up in a dark, under-lit room. Confused, I crane my neck to look around, only to find that it is held in place by a solid steel restraint. I try to move the rest of my body, and find that they are also held in place. “Out of the fireplace and into the fire,” I chuckle to myself, finding humour in the irony of my situation. “Something funny?” The unmistakable voice of the blonde stranger fills my ears, and I shudder in a wave of nerves and anticipation. He slinks around the table so that he can whisper into my ear. “I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna enjoy this.” He reaches to a small table next to the larger one that I am lying on, and my fears are confirmed as I see 2 small knifes clutched in his long-nailed hands. They are both deadly and beautiful at the same time, and I grimace as I imagine what my captive might do with them. He whirls them round so that they are pointing straight down towards me, and raises them well above his head. I brace myself once again as his hands come down in unison, solidly planting the knives into my exposed eyes.
Pain, agony and rage fills me and I bellow, feeling the knives dig deeper into my now empty sockets. Everything is black, and blood gushes from the gaping holes in my face, making me feel light and sleepy. Leaving the blades where they are, I hear the man begin to chant strange demonic runes, and my mind ponders what unspeakable atrocity will be committed next. I am soon answered. A sudden warmth floods across the surface of my body, instantly becoming uncomfortable and stinging my bare skin. With a jolt, I realise that I am on fire, as my body contorts and my skin and muscle tear and peel away. The pain is immense, as the flames bite deeper into me, charring and melting as they go. I spasm once more. Then everything is black.
Chapter 1: A Walk Back Home
At first, it appeared to be but an ordinary Sunday, like life didn’t care for illusive morrows. The peaceful, quiet chirping of the birds; the familiar rustling of the swaying plastic bag in my aching hand; the sensation off long-wanted relief when I loosened my tie; the complaining of my legs after a day in front of a computer; and the air and sun which were clear and bright respectively – all of these coming together to obscure the avoidable future with lies. The day seemed nice. The day seemed peaceful. A walk was refreshing after work.
The chirping of the birds singing soft lullabies of falsity, as I skipped across the park; bordering tall conifers that seemed to be grasping at the sun in hope, admiration and mortal desperation. The grass was vibrant and springy, as if were trying to greet the world with sarcastic amicable salutations. The fields of wheat spread like peaceful butter over the land, swaying in the gentle, yet unpredictable, breeze of England.
Uneventfully eventful. That was how it seemed. My life of bliss – of content. Gone. With the meeting of the girl. With meeting of the boy. With meeting of the two who were strange. The two who were vulnerable, yet not.
As I was walking, with plod of my own steps following me – reassuring me –, the fated two came into sight; causing my heart to stop in the thick mist of shock. Cold ensnared me like the darkness of night. Breath stuck in my throat as my brain failed to comprehend that of the situation in front of me. My brain must have come to the conclusion that poison had entered my system, and so insisted that I regurgitate. I prevented the first wave through fluked will power, but the second and third caught me by surprise; filling my mouth with foul tasting liquid which burned my flesh and gnawed away at my teeth.
I’d usually been good with gore; I felt fine after dissecting animals in biology. But this… this was too much.
The two were around the age of 9, from the looks of them. The boy wore a t-shirt that appeared to be a dirty white with a large iconic smiley face upon it. His hair was a dull brown, close to black, and his eyes were a striking blue, but seemingly sightless – as if he were looking upon an ant – barely worth notice. Teeth glared at me with an impeccable pearly colour and his expression was a strange mixture of ecstasy and emotionless. His skin was that of brown, bringing out the pale colour of his eyes further, and his face was round, the immaturity fading, yet not yet dissipated.
The girl was slightly taller and had a more mature and stronger body than the boy. Her hair, of an impeccable white, flowed past her shoulders down to her slim waist. Hair draped itself over half her face in an unnecessary, guilty curtain, but of what was visible was enough to give any normal man a fright not to be forgotten. Her face, or what was left of it, was a striking pale like that of the finest ivory. Her eyes were, again, a striking blue, but the rim was dyed a blood red, from which seemed to slowly seep into the iris. She was albino, evidence from the surviving part of her face suggested. The part that didn’t survive was that of horror incarnate. It was as if burning oil had been pouring down her.
No… Not as if.
The scar was of a raw, fleshy red, with scorches of carbon indiscriminately clawing it. From that which refused to hide in an uncanny pride, the right eye of the girl was half closed – from the skin which had melted across it. The despised trophy of trauma that was on her face, seemed to twist what was once innocent into a demented, reversed smirk.
The two in front of me were not the problem in itself; it was the corpse.
It lay there, doing what a corpse does; be a horrid reminder of mortality. Its one surviving eye was dyed an unnatural red, as if the blood spilling from its counterpart had seeped, parasitic, into it. The pupil was unreflective, as if all light – and my soul infinitesimal – could be consumed by it if I let my guard down. The hair upon its head was damp, bringing out the common brown of the woman’s head. Due to the white of the corpse’s skin, the pumping blood – flooding occasionally to the sickly palpitations of the fading heart of the remains – was in a contrast to the body. The unpleasant contrast of crimson and white. The corpse took the position of something being pushed from the back while praying or begging; sprawled pitifully on its front with outstretched hands – God didn’t seem to care, if there at all. The back of the woman was in an unnatural lump, as if a tumour had sprouted and burst spontaneously. The blood that rolled down her back like a volcano, was not a sight to savour. The legs of the corpse were twisted, facing the wrong direction. The total of all of these individual horrors, was not something I could take.
The girl muttered in a whisper that seemed to carry for miles. My body shook as an uncomfortable cold slithered its way up my spine in the slowest fashion possible. The boy looked my way as if he hadn’t noticed me – or bothered to, in very least. In parallel, the two stretched out their palms. Their palms seemed dehydrated and frail compared to their healthy bodies; and upon them were jewels which twinkled like nursery rhymes and sparkled like catching blades.
“???????? ?????: ????????? ?????? ?? ???????????? ?????”
A language unknown and foreign to me reached my ears; but it somehow made me tremble in the thickness of fear. A light of mystery gathered in the two’s palms; the jewels the epicentres. They closed their palms, synchronized. Their eyes looked past me in a trance. I was confused at this ritual, but the reason soon became evident.
A wet sound rang out, and a hope-devouring darkness took my sight. I moved my hands, shivering, to my eyes in a scathing, clenching panic…
My eyes were reduced to but sockets; fleshy, bleeding dents in my ugly visage. I felt blood pump like eternal streams of tears, my brain too confused to realise its ephemeral nature. My throat felt sore as air passed through it; an unfamiliar scream sounding in the distance.
The cold words pierced my writhing brain; like a sword cutting through an unprotected heart. I didn’t know what they meant, but the words drilled in and planted ice within my darkening soul.
The sound of primitive screaming blocked out the mockingly indifferent ambience of the world, like a thundercloud swooping, stealing the sun. The screams were my entire accursed cage for those few day-long seconds. That is until a choking swelled up from inside me and allowed foully metallic tasting liquid to fill my mouth, drain through my teeth, and dribble, humiliatingly, down my chin – scoring it a beautifully distasteful scarlet.
My brain then tried to focus once more, desensitising to the otherworldly confusion and pain. To no prevail was this venture, for it only discovered a new pain erupting from within my chest. My hands, almost unresponsive in the maze of agony, felt at my rib cage. All that I found of my torso, was a damp void that caved inwards.
My brain lost its grasp on life for a few immortal moments. It made me gasp. It made me swallow. The tainted saliva in my unholy mouth slipping down my raw, dry throat – tinging it in paroxysm. It made the air sharpen and pierce my organs with every breath I strived for. It made my muscles contract and relax; my body spasming in a frantic attempt to achieve nothing.
I felt a strange foam around the wound on my chest; my consciousness barely grasping onto the frame of reality as the Devil pulled at my foot, stretching it beyond what science could explain. Death approached and Pain enjoyed the time of its tormentingly fictional life. The drowning sensation that swallowed me as I regretted every turn of the life I had lived. My wallowing was only interrupted by the words of the boy – the words of the thing. The voice scratched and sliced at me in a condescending tone, with a rasping voice of elderly wisdom and deep-rooted corruption.
“stultus es. Mortem praeter amicos vult.”
Life threw me away like a lost bet; drawing out feelings other than torment from my blood covered body: an angering, stirring emptiness that dragged my insides out; stealing away my superficial, unnecessary honour, pride and privacy, and gnawed at it for all to see – jeering. Regret and frustration overflowed from within me, as a last, inaudible sob escaped my mouth.
Cillian is the sole survivor of a devastating terrorist attack on a packed Metro train. How did he survive when everyone else was killed? Searching for answers with the mysterious Tess, Cillian discovers that his father has links to P8, a group of genetic scientists operating outside the laws of Foundation City. The shocking discoveries he and Tess make at P8’s secret hospital start to make Cillian ask not who he is, but what he is.