Thursday, 10 April 2014

The End Is In Sight!

Quick update!

(And I mean quick!)

44,000 words through Hotel Nomad.

After five years of conceptual dreaming and idiotic procrastinating, I'm finally starting to put the work in.

Not to intentionally make my previous post about scheduling creativity utterly redundant but it turns out I HAVE to actually schedule a working time table otherwise I don't get anything done!

But now, finally, the end is finally in sight!

I have the whole complete story fully plotted out and it's just a matter of nailing it all down onto the page.

I've been discussing with other writers recently the hardships of writing a full length novel (anything over 40,000 words, so Google informs me) and the consensus seems to lean towards bashing it out and editing the crap out of it later.

I can't work like that.

I'm too anal to continue a story that I feel could have serious foundation, stylistic and tonal flaws at the very beginning. I have to adapt, edit, smooth and re-write as I go; the whole process. It's painful and slow going but it works for me. In another 36,000 words (approx), I'll have a piece that, with a little final tinkering, will be ready to shop to potential publishers.

I'm not going the self publish route. I'd really rather not. I want an official house to take this on.

So that's my update.

It's a short and shallow post this time. I'm saving my big boy thoughts for my book.

Catch you on the flip side!

Friday, 21 February 2014

Scheduling Creativity

33,000 words into Hotel Nomad.

Getting serious now.

(...only four frigging years after my first officially published novella...)

Yes. I'm lazy.

Can we move on?

Some writers far more talented than me have often queried this; when to write?

I heard this great quote  (I can't recall who said it and I may be elaborating a tad) :

'Set yourself a limit. Say ten pages a day. If one day, it takes you ten to fifteen minutes to knock out your ten pages, congrats! Go screw off, you're done! Yet, if it takes you ten hours, you fucking stay there till your ten pages are done! Nine pages may be bullshit but sometimes you got to go through the shite to find the gold.'

It's about discipline.

As Hank Moody from Californication once said :

'Don't be a writer! It's like having homework for the rest of your life!'

The setting of schedules doesn't work for me. I have to write when I am inspired.

I may write a page in three months. I may write twenty pages in one night.

I can never tell.

When it comes to writing, I'm a BIG believer in quality, not quantity. What's the point of jotting down crap you just KNOW you will end up deleting?

I tend to have a high bullshit factor, so I try to not let the story get away from me, even if I'm having fun dialoguing with minor characters.

I don't plot too far ahead. I hate knowing EXACTLY where a story will go. If I know, I get bored very quickly.

I have learned one thing this year, that I didn't know last year.

If you are writing a NOVEL as opposed to a novella or a screenplay, you better be DAMN sure your idea has legs, a real concept that can justify that many words.

I can't fool myself.

I'm pretty damn sure I can't fool anyone who reads my work.

Now, sssh, I'm writing.......

Saturday, 18 January 2014

What Is Our Art Worth?

I'm writing.

Honestly!

No really, I'm actually writing!

I had to unplug the X Box 360.

(Go away, GTA 5, torment me no longer, you foul seductive temptress).

But I am writing!

I had a new idea!

28,300 words into my actual second book and I got a new idea! Books are like women. You have to marry them to forget them.

(Just kidding, Kira, kiss kiss kiss, hug hug hug)!

So I'm writing more and that's good. I started a new novel and on page five, a thought struck me.

'Am I saying anything of substance or just putting words on a page?'

Not.....

'Is this any good?'

(No real writer can often tell gold dust from bull shit).

I actually thought about the worth of the story, the characters, ultimately; is this worth me putting out into the world?

At the risk of sounding pretentious, I want my art to MEAN something.

Vampire literature has taken a SERIOUS nosedive over the last few years and is no longer taken seriously (Rice and Stoker notwithstanding) so it may come as no shock that my new idea has NOTHING to do with vampires.

Don't get me wrong. I love vampires and I'll be damned (see what I did there?) if I'm going to let childish sparkly faerie stories push me away from them but I want to create something that's grounded, that's honest, that's REAL!

One of my favourite movies is David Cronenberg's 1996 controversial Crash.

Based on J.G Ballard's 1973 book of the same name, it's hypnotic, cautionary, grounded, elegant, DIFFERENT, original, daring, provocative and REAL. It says something and today, it still means something.

I want to write something with that kind of power that LASTS!

Not merely something that shocks, that's all too easy, but something with a VOICE. If it shocks through it's message, that's a good thing, but not if it's done in a cheap manner.......

I'm continuing on both novels simultaneously, Hotel Nomad and Raven (yes, that's the title of what will be my third book) and work is proceeding well.

But I want my fourth book to be the runt of the litter, so to speak. Something grounded and real and provocative.

I am confident and forthright in my quest.

P.S : This is a question to other writers, ever had an idea that was SO GOOD you were shocked no one has come up with it before?  

Monday, 23 December 2013

Look Who Remembered He Has A Blog, 2013!

I start this blog post surprised.

Before I started writing this particular post, I figured, let's go back and see what I wrote for my last post of 2012, and what did it say? (I'm paraphrasing here....)

Authors, word of warning, never go back and read back on your previous goals for the year. You'll be disappointed with all the goals you set yourself but failed to achieve.

I had to laugh because it's so pathetic but as of my last post of 2012, I was 22,000 words into my second book, Hotel Nomad. 
 
After one year later, how much further have I got?

An extra 5,000 words.

Yep. Took me a frigging year to write 5,000 words in my new book!

I mean, they're 5,000 words of PURE GOLD but still, I mean that's fucking awful, eh?

Okay, it hasn't been THAT bad!

I've worked on other pieces and twiddled around with scripts and what not but ultimately, as far as Hotel Nomad is concerned, I think Moses was still wearing short pants when I started this damn book!

Story wise, I'm on point.

I recently fixed a big fucking plot hole and drew a few strands together than hadn't worked. I'm remembering to enjoy my characters' company, even if some of them are bat shit crazy. I'm learning that violence used responsibly is more affecting than violence used for the shock factor alone. I'm learning to ALWAYS write forwards, not backwards (other writers will know what I mean here). I'm clearer on some character's motivations now and, most intriguingly, the story has become far more emotional than I had originally intended. So it's not all bad news.

Bottom line time. I still need a new publisher and my first REAL agent.

I'm thinking my book will be finished by April.

(That's if I knuckle down and turn Grand Theft Auto 5 off for a bloody change!)

Creativity wise (and after the 5,000 word revelation, this comes as a real shock), I feel I'm capable of my best work ever this year. I'm one of fortunate writers who never seems to suffer from writers' block or a lack of things to say. As always, my main flaw is laziness.

Hey, I'm writing this blog post, aren't I? That's a good start.

2014? I'm still writing, still caring about good stories and better characters, still ready to take on EPIC tales I'm completely unprepared to deal with.

Courage, my listeners and only friends, that's what gets us through the day.......

(I'm turning my X Box off right now.....no, really. I am!......)

(......)

Friday, 30 August 2013

CURSE OF CHUCKY - A Movie Review


I'm hijacking my own blog about my writing to add my review of this blistering new horror film about one of my favourite horror icons. Forgive me; it's such a good film!

When we last met Chucky (the now iconic two foot tall doll possessed with the spirit of serial killer, Charles Lee Ray, voiced by acting legend, Brad Dourif), he’d murdered Britney Spears by running her off a road, masturbated to a copy of horror magazine, Fangoria, helped his equally murderous partner, Tiffany (voiced by Jenifer Tilly) artificially inseminate, err…..actress Jennifer Tilly (playing, one hopes, a very exaggerated version of herself) and fought his son/daughter, Glen/Glenda (Billy Boyd) in a Matrix-style bout that left him strewn about the shop in bloody pieces.

Yes, I think it’s fair to say Seed Of Chucky, the Good Guy’s last outing, may have ‘jumped the shark’ a tad.

Not that its quirky sensibilities came completely out of left field, of course. Its predecessor, Bride Of Chucky, can be held solely responsible for taking the franchise’s straight horror roots and leading them down a uniquely black comedic path, but let’s not forget; there WAS no franchise left to speak of when Bride was released.

Child’s Play 3, having not only failed to set the box office alight was caught up in the controversy surrounding UK toddler Jamie Bulger’s horrific abduction and murder amidst claims the movie had incited the killers to such acts upon viewing. The film was immediately pulled from all video stockists and became the British media’s scapegoat as they de-cried the ‘video nasties’ plague that had apparently befallen our shores – and so it seemed that this would be the last time the homicidal, foul mouthed Chucky would be gracing our screens, theatrical or otherwise. 

Fast forward a few years and thanks to a wonderfully re-inventive script by Chucky scribe, Don Mancini, and a very talented Chinese director named Ronny Yu, the powers that be decided audiences deserved another slice of ginger mayhem, cleverly deducing that modern audiences should find much to laugh at given the premise of a killer doll who mouthed off. Thus, Chucky was re-born for modern audiences, twice as funny and (if we’re being truthful) twice as brutal. (Not to mention Bride Of Chucky made a shedload of cash at the box office). 

So our stitched up Chuck (love him or loathe him) is to thank for keeping the name ‘out there’ – and this is coming from a lifelong fan! Many hard core Chuckaholics now claim to detest these funny entries in the franchise (I love BOTH incarnations, they both have their place) and took to the forums in their droves, hoping someone, anyone, would listen to pleas of a much quieter back-to-basics-don’t-fuck-with-the-Chuck treatment of Lee Ray and it seems someone was listening; that someone was, no less, the creator of said character and screenwriter of ALL the ‘Chucky’ movies; Mr Don Mancini. 

Make no mistake, Curse Of Chucky marks not only a return to the franchise’s purer horror sensibilities but also a reinvigoration of what made the concept so terrifying to begin with. As much as this movie will impress fans with its imagination and wit, so too will it with its restraint and subtlety.
 
The movie (forgoing the franchise’s tradition of a resurrection scene) begins immediately with the doll being delivered to the (creepy) house of paraplegic, Nica (Fiona Dourif) and her controlling mother, Sarah (Chantal Quesnelle) with no note and no explanation as to why it was sent there. Cue one very suspicious death later and Nica’s surviving relatives descend upon the house swiftly, each with their own apparent (and ulterior) motives. 

To its credit, Curse Of Chucky, right off the bat, makes it clear this will be a story interested in human interaction first and foremost as we are acutely made aware of the many different ways Nica responds to each one of her uninvited guests, admirable given the fact that the majority of the characters, as with all ‘slashers,’ exist purely as fodder for the killer. (Note; this is NOT standard ‘slasher’ fare; it’s far classier than that). We meet Barb (Danielle Bisutti), Nica’s domineering older sister, Ian (Brennan Elliot), Barb’s easy going husband, Alice (Summer H Howell), Barb’s young daughter, Jill (Maitland McConnell), the sexy young nanny and Father Frank (A Martinez), a close friend of the family. The dialogue immediately convinces that long standing relationships exist between the characters as quips and observations allow each actor to paint their character in, either with subtle tones or wide brushstrokes.

Showing remarkable restraint with a character twenty five theatrical years old, Mancini plays beautifully with the tension building trickery of having Chucky disappear at random moments in the beginning portion of the film. The characters become quite naturally unnerved at the doll’s innate ability to seemingly vanish into thin air. (There’s a beautiful little moment in a bathroom that starts almost clich├ęd and ends in a genuinely funny and charming fashion). It’s a long wait before Chucky finally reveals his true nature (to the expected character if you’re at all familiar with Chucky’s modus operandi) and it’s done in typical foul mouthed Chucky fashion, however once the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, the inevitable body count begins; yet, as with most ingredients regarding Curse of Chucky, it’s a deftly controlled rampage that our favourite ginger embarks upon. There are no excesses here, no wildly inventive kills. This is how a real killer doll would kill. Recall the hammer to the eye that caused poor Maggie to fall to her death in the original Child’s Play and you wouldn’t be far off. That’s not to say the film is bloodless, far from it. It finally received an 18 certificate, a rating that had me rather perplexed until two very specific EXTREME close-up shots. If you view the UNCUT version (I’m led to believe two different versions will appear on the DVD and Blu-Ray), be forewarned. The supporting cast dwindles till finally Nica, heartbreakingly vulnerable yet courageously formidable, faces off against Chucky in a tour de force of necessary franchise continuity flashbacks, fan boy orgasmic exposition and brutal explosive violence.

Curse Of Chucky is, in a nutshell, a slick and necessary addition to Chucky’s already established canon. One critic called it ‘Hitchcock Does Chucky’ and I couldn’t agree more. Mancini’s direction is polished, suspense savvy and very self-assured. The cinematography is breath-taking, taking full advantage of the ‘haunted house’ locale as well as impressing with bravado camera moves (the title sequence alone, shot in one smooth steadicam shot, had me in awe). The sound direction is first rate, taking a page from Dario Argento’s bowel loosening score from the classic Suspira and infusing it with an off kilter ‘Good Guys’ tinkle toy piano that genuinely unsettles, not to mention the sound effects themselves. (Did they use a sample of Brad Dourif’s laughter as popping flames as a fire bubbles under a pan in one scene? It certainly sounded like it or, as in all good horror films, was my brain concocting things that simply weren’t there?) The acting across the board was noteworthy yet singular praise must be bestowed upon Fiona Dourif who undoubtedly had not only the toughest role in the movie but the most cynically critiqued. Her father, after all, voices the antagonist and helped the franchise become what it is today. Nepotism surely then is the reason a Dourif was cast in a leading role in Chucky’s return to the screen? After screening the film, you’ll be left in no doubt that Don Mancini cast Fiona Dourif for her acting skills and those alone. The girl is a revelation in a VERY tough break out role. Her sensitivity is apparent from the very first scene and her toughness, once it comes to the fore, is cheer worthy. This is a character you WANT to survive, you NEED to survive, because as a foil to Chucky, Nica is exemplary.
 
I found only two real flaws with Curse Of Chucky that grated with me but I think they are worth mentioning. First off is the implement of what the Chuckaholics online call ‘the CGI Asian hooker look’ for Chucky. I found this completely unnecessary and very jarring in my perception of the movie. I saw this ‘look’ in two separate scenes in the film (in his first reveal as ‘alive’ and the first death scene) and I cannot for the life of me understand why it was utilised at all. Why couldn’t the animatronic doll handle these shots? I couldn’t connect these shots of Chucky with anything of how he appears further on in the movie and I found it very disconcerting. I feel they could have not appeared at all and the movie would have been stronger. My second gripe I cannot describe in detail without spoiling the film for hard core fans, but I will say only this; actors get old. Putting a wig and glasses on them does not conceal the passing of time.

In short (yep, this review has kind of gotten away from me a bit), Curse Of Chucky is a riot. I was privileged enough to see it at the UK premiere, blessed to have met director, Don Mancini (classy) and lead actress, Fiona Dourif (adorable), and I am PROUD as a Chucky fan that we now have a flagship movie to stand by, to show Hollywood there’s still life in the little fucker.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Cutter - FREE short story!


In a rare and unprecedented move (at least for me!), I have decided to post a free and exclusive short story for this particular blog post.

Call it laziness. 

Call it whorish attention seeking. 

Call it what you will.

(If it's imaginative, please leave a comment so I may steal it!)

The following story was penned long after Swan Song's publication and is included in my twelve tales vampire collection, Against The Grain - and even though said collection was originally intended for my previous publisher, unfortunately it never saw the light of day. 

I'm currently doing my level best to rectify that situation.


Cutter

‘Oh, Darren, it’s you! I’m sorry, we were expecting the doctor. Please come in.’

Darren stepped into the house, the familiar words falling from his lips before he'd even taken his jacket off.
‘How is she tonight?’
Ariel Marwick smiled sadly in response.
‘She ate some soup earlier in the evening, managed to sleep some. We had...'
She paused.
'...an episode earlier. She’s calmed down now though.’
Darren nodded solemnly. The door closed behind him, leaving the cold outside.
‘Should I come back a bit later?’
He asked.
‘No! No, it's fine...'
Ariel said, a touch too vehemently.
'...she’d like to see you. I know she’d like to see you.’
Darren smiled, feeling every bit as anxious as he ever had inside this house. The feeling intensified suddenly as Mr Marwick appeared at the corner of the stairs, one shoulder set heavy against the wall.
‘Hello, Mr Marwick,’ 
Darren ventured. He received a raised eyebrow in greeting before the father continued into the living room.
‘Don’t you worry about him tonight, Darren...'
Ariel reassured him, placing a tender hand on his shoulder.
'...you’re here for Bethany.'
'Darren!'
Isabelle’s high shrill voice signalled her approach as she slid from the bottom of the stairs into a heap on the floor before them. Darren couldn’t contain his laughter as Bethany’s little sister gathered herself up and raced towards him. He bundled her up into his arms and squeezed her tight as she giggled with breathless excitement.
‘Young lady, you are supposed to be asleep.'
Ariel reminded her young daughter, unable to keep the smile from her face. 
‘I heard you talking...!' 
Isabelle said as she squirmed in Darren’s arms. 
‘...can I show Darren my new doll?’ 
‘Not tonight, sweetheart...'
Ariel said, taking Darren's lively burden into her own arms.
‘...Darren is here to see Bethany. It’s grown-up stuff, honey.’
‘Grown-up stuff...!'
Isabelle pouted. 
‘...but soon! Right, Darren? You promised me tricks, remember? Amazing tricks?'
Darren grinned and touched her chin with a playful finger. 
‘The likes of which you've never seen!'
‘Go to bed, Izzy!’ 
Mr Marwick’s voice commanded from the living room. Isabelle’s smile disappeared immediately at the sound of her father’s instruction. Darren smiled at her and mussed her long blonde hair.  
'Sleep...'
Darren said to her.
'...another time.'
‘I’m glad you’re here.’ 
Isabelle said, planting a quick kiss on Darren’s cheek before allowing herself to be swept up towards the stairs by her mother.
‘Go make yourself comfortable, Darren...' 
Ariel chimed as she climbed the stairs, child in arms.
'...I won't be long.'
Darren nodded amicably before turning his attention to the front room where, although the door remained open, he was sure he was far from welcome.

‘She cried out your name again last night...'
Bethany's father said as Darren entered the room.
'...she thinks about you a lot.'
Mr Marwick sat in one of the numerous armchairs that peppered the luxurious room. It also played host to numerous flowers, ornaments, statues and paintings, the likes of which Darren had never seen before and was unlikely to see again. He remained awkwardly in the doorway, watching the father of his girlfriend swirl his whisky round his glass absentmindedly.
‘Make yourself a drink and sit down.’ 
Mr Marwick said tiredly. 
'With all due respect, sir...'  
Darren began.
‘Respect...?’ 
Mr Marwick laughed, self consciously.
'...make yourself a drink...'
He repeated sternly. 
‘...and sit down.’
‘Thank you, sir.’ 
Darren said carefully and, pacing across to the small custom bar, he plucked a bottle of imported lager from a bucket of ice.
‘Sit.’ 
The father ordered again.
Darren, popping the lid free with his fingers, did as instructed and sat on one of the many chairs, the one furthest away from where the man with the world upon his shoulders sat.
‘I love my daughter...'
Mr Marwick said. Darren took a minimal sip of his beer.
'...and my daughter loves you, Darren. She told me, though what do children really know of love...?’
The question needed no answer, so Darren didn't provide one.
'...my daughter is sick...’
The father said.
‘I know.'
Darren said quietly.   
‘My daughter, dear opportunistic Darren, has been sick for years, but I think you’ve known this, haven’t you? I think you’ve known this and you've preyed upon this...’
‘Sir...'
'...my daughter does love me, sneaky little Darren...but she didn't love me enough to tell me the things a daughter should tell her father...'
Darren's grip on the beer bottle instinctively tightened. As if on cue, the sound of Isabelle’s crying drifted down, uninvited, into the room, breaking the hollow silence that had existed between each word Mr Marwick had uttered. He continued onwards regardless, ironically ignoring one child’s pain to lament another’s.
‘...you don’t know a parent’s anguish...’ 
The father continued. 
‘...until you have children of your own.’


‘I love your daughter...'
Darren stated sharply, aware now that the father’s eyes were on him, albeit dulled by pain and alcohol. 
‘...I’ve stayed by her side for four years now. Four years. I’ve defended her. I’ve respected her and in a high school like ours, I’ve even had to fight for her...but I think you know this, don’t you, Mr Marwick?’
Darren knew he was pushing the envelope, throwing the upset father’s words back at him, and yet he needed to be heard, finally, needed to be accepted, as Bethany’s mother understood and accepted.
‘Fight for her...?’ 
The father mused aloud.
'...yes, I remember. You put that poor kid in a coma...'
‘I love your daughter...’ 
Darren repeated forcefully.
'...and now that she needs my help, our help, I’m here, aren't I? I still visit. I think it’s time you afforded me some respect...’ 
He paused here, careful not to upset the respite the father had allowed him. 
‘...there may be some things your daughter trusted me with, that she couldn’t have trusted you with. We may be able to help each other, Mr Marwick, and, in turn, help Bethany.’
The words were harsh but they were out there now and he couldn't take them back.  He’d waited so long to be heard.
‘You’re saying you know the reason why my daughter is so weak she can hardly stand...?’ 
Mr Marwick asked simply for the first time in their relationship, utterly devoid of cynicism. 
‘...you’re saying you know why she refuses to go out in the daytime? Why she’s scared to leave her room? You know?’
‘I’m saying you should trust me...’ 
Darren countered gently. 
‘...I may be able to make her happy again.’
‘My daughter is a cutter. Did you know that, Darren?’ 
The words were flung like a retaliation strike for the earlier offensive. The paternal father figure’s head was fully raised now, the whiskey had been forgotten, the hurt was real.
‘A cutter.’ 
Darren repeated, unsure of how to respond. Mr Marwick leant forwards suddenly, like a drunk who’d been challenged to prove his sobriety. 
‘Yes, you cunt. A cutter. Do you know what that is?’
Darren remained silent.
‘Allow me to enlighten you...’ 
Mr Marwick reached behind his chair and with something approaching a magician’s flourish, brought forth a well-thumbed medical journal. 
‘...a cutter, according to our medical  dictionary here, is someone who has extreme difficulty in describing or expressing stressful feelings in a healthy way. By cutting themselves, they are providing a tangible release for feelings they cannot express otherwise. Often, such a person believes the damage done, which involves exterior feeling instead of interior feeling, will be seen and allow them the chance to heal.’
‘Okay, I think I understand you.’ 
Darren said.
‘But we haven’t got to the good part yet...’ 
Mr Marwick retorted and returned to the book. 
‘...those who self-harm may think that the injuries, which are now in physical form, will somehow provide tangible evidence that the inner emotional pain is real. Through the physical pain they feel may be the catalyst that allows release of inner pain, the release is only short-lived...'
‘I get you. Stop. There’s no need for this.’ 
Darren spat, but the words coming at him only seemed to get louder.
‘...for self-harmers, this coping mechanism is ineffective because the pain eventually returns without any actual healing occurring...’
‘Enough!’ 
Darren got to his feet suddenly, his bottle still clasped in his hand, just as Ariel appeared in the doorway. The tears in her eyes, rather than her presence, reminded him of who he was and where he found himself as he towered above the father of his girlfriend.
‘My God...’ 
Mr Marwick said to no one in particular, as if he’d suddenly come upon a particularly shocking paragraph. The book slipped through his fingers to the floor. Oblivious to the physical threat Darren presented, the man had retreated within himself, his whiskey glass having spilled from his hand. Now ‘Her thighs, my baby girl...’
Darren could barely hear the father’s words above Ariel’s sobbing. 
‘...her thighs...’
Wordlessly, Darren dropped the bottle onto the carpet and turned in Ariel’s direction. 
‘What’s wrong...?’
He demanded. The mother was distraught. Something had happened upstairs.
‘...Ariel, what’s wrong?’ 
Darren walked round the chairs and took the mother’s hands in his.
‘She wants you...’ 
Were the words Darren heard through the mire of sorrow. 
‘...please go and see her, please go and see my Bethany...'
Here, the sobs grew louder and Darren had to lean back as Ariel launched herself upon his shoulder. ‘...my baby...’
The mother cried, over and over.
'...my baby...'
‘I’ll go...'
Darren said gently, stroking the mother's arms.
'...it's okay. She just needs cheering up. Just like before, remember? All she needed was a TV. Jim Carrey would wring a crude laugh from Jesus Christ himself.'
Ariel let go a solid laugh, despite herself, yet her hands took hold of Darren's arms, her fingers pressing into his flesh.
‘I always liked you...’ 
Ariel whispered into his ear. 
‘...I know you can make my baby laugh again. I know you can.'
Slowly, gently, Darren unlatched Ariel’s hands from his arms, guided her from the room and placed her neatly upon the bottom step of the stairs.
‘Don't tell Mr Marwick, but I think I spilled my beer on the carpet.'
He confessed into the mother's ear conspiratorially, winning another hard earned laugh.
‘Bethany hates that carpet.'
Ariel confessed in return. Smiling gently, stroking the mother's hair as one would a child, Darren left Ariel to her dry heaving dying sobs and began to ascend the stairs.

The landing was shrouded in darkness. Bethany’s door was seven steps away. Darren took it in one. 

‘It’s time to go.'
He said as he entered the bedroom and closed the door behind him.

Bethany Marwick sat upright in bed on a pile of pillows, a Bible in one hand and a razor blade in the other. Her pink nightdress was pulled up over her milky thighs, blood running in thick rivulets to puddle between her legs, staining her Minnie Mouse knickers.
‘Choose a hand, any hand.’ 
She grinned as he stepped towards her.
‘I told you to knock it off with that religious shit...'
Darren snapped by way of greeting.
'...it makes me uncomfortable.'
'Come on, you must be hungry...'
Bethany replied. 
‘...go to it, lover boy.’
‘No time...'
Darren said as he crossed the room and threw open the curtains. 
‘...and stop the kooky act. Your parents are fucking flipping out down there.’
‘Who said it’s an act...?'
Bethany said. 
'...you got to me baby. Who deals with this kind of shit in a sane way? You tell me.’
‘If you had moved your ass when I’d asked you...'
Darren spat.
'...none of this shit would have been necessary. Your parents think you’re a sick bitch who cuts herself for no reason. It didn’t have to be this way, Beth.’
‘I am a sick bitch...'
She grinned devilishly.  
'...but I'm not selfish. I know what my lover needs. I’m just sweet enough to cater to it.’
‘If this is going to work, if you are going to come with me...’ 
Darren paused long enough in his preparations to look at her. 
‘...you’re going to have to start listening to me. This isn’t high school anymore, sweets. This is the real deal. Big time, baby.’
‘I’m all ears...’ 
Bethany cooed, twirling the razor blade a hair’s breadth from her ear. 
‘...if I lopped this off...’ 
She teased, scraping the edge of her ear with the edge of the blade. 
‘...would it grow back?’
‘Try it and find out.’ 
Darren said bluntly. Bethany pouted and threw the bloodied razor and the Bible to the bed.
‘You’re no fun tonight.’
‘I’m serious, Bethany. This doesn’t have to be as hard on your parents as you’re making it.’
‘Ooh, why? Do they think I’m suicidal? Perish the thought!'
Darren turned away and, squatting on her desk, swept her stationery and childhood ornaments to the floor.
‘Get dressed...’ 
Darren said, breaking her window lock with a flick of his wrist. 
‘...we’ve wasted enough time as it is.’
‘What’s a measure of time, for those like us...?’
She breathed sweetly, suddenly, in his ear. He turned around on the desk to find her standing close behind him. Though she still wore her knickers, the blood ringed around her thigh like a ceremonial wedding garter, she’d shucked off the nightdress, exposing her lithe young form.
‘I know what you’re thinking.'
He said, desire pulling at him. 
‘Do you now?’
She purred.
‘Beth, we haven’t the time.’
She took his cold fingers in hers. 
‘I’ll be quick.’ 
She promised quietly, taking his fingertips to her tongue.
‘Bethany Marwick, get yourself dressed this instant...'
Darren said sharply, his impression of her father faultless, his tone artificially perfect. 
'...you know how cold you get when we fly.’
She sighed and sucking one of his fingers clear of her mouth with a loud popping sound, pouted again.
‘You’re definitely no fun tonight.’
She turned and padded across to her wardrobe. 

Darren turned back to the windows and flung them open, noting the thick fog that clung to the town below like a coarse and intricately woven spider web.
‘We got lucky with the weather.’ 
He said.
‘What did you tell them, my parents?’ 
As if she honestly cared.
‘What could I say...?’ 
Darren said.
‘...your dad hates me.’
‘Can’t think why.’
‘I said he had to start trusting me, that I knew what would make you happy. It’s funny, your mum liked me from the start...’
‘All that sexy vampire charisma, no doubt.’
Bethany giggled. Darren shook his head.
‘No. I never played any of that with her. I promise. It would have been weird.’
‘Look at Mr Morals over here.’
This won a laugh from him as he continued to look out into the night that awaited them beyond the window.
‘I’ve only ever used it when I really wanted someone, when I couldn’t take no for an answer.’
‘What about me, Darren Miller...?’
He turned back to face her. She was standing now fully clothed in black boots, black jeans and a tight black top. Her long black hair was down upon her shoulders, framing that exquisitely paling face.
‘...have you ever pulled that kindred mumbo-jumbo with me?’ 
She smiled at him, dangerously. Death had made a beauty of her.
‘Maybe in the beginning.’ 
He grinned now. He couldn't help himself.
‘You bastard.'
She whispered, her smile widening.
‘Be careful landing in those...’ 
He advised as he noted the high heels on her boots. 
‘...we’ll be coming in fast.’
‘Bite me.’
This made them both laugh. She walked back to him and fell into his arms as he sat, still squatting upon her childhood desk.
‘Your parents will miss you.’ 
Darren said as he nuzzled her neck.
‘Fuck them...’ 
Bethany said. 
‘...they should have cared a long time ago.’
‘No note?’
She thought about this for a minute.
‘No.'
She replied coldly.

‘Where you going?’ 
Isabelle said from the doorway. 

Complete with teddy bear hanging from her hand, the six-year-old portrayed the perfect picture of a younger sister. She might have been able to have been bribed into secrecy had it not been so late. Although one eye was closed, the other seemed wide-awake and was easily the tattletale of the two. 
‘I thought you were sick, Bethany?’ 
Isabelle asked innocently.
‘I am, Izzy...’ 
Bethany cooed and kneeling down before her sister, she took one human hand in one cold hand and a teddy hand in the other. 
‘...Darren’s going to take me out for some fresh air.’
‘I want some fresh air...'
Isabelle moaned.
‘...can I come?’
Bethany looked towards Darren, a curious look upon her face. Darren swallowed his disgust.
‘I’m afraid not, Isabelle...’ 
He said as he slid from the desk and placed a cold hand upon the young girl’s cheek. 
‘...we may be gone a very long time.’
‘But you promised we’d play!' 
Isabelle cried, in danger of rousing the whole neighbourhood. Bethany’s grin widened as she stood and tugged on Darren’s arm. 
‘Always wanted an eternal baby sister.' 
She whispered into Darren’s ear.
‘No.’ 
He said.
‘Why not? All that experience ahead of her.’
‘I said no. What the fuck is wrong with you?’ 
He barked. As much to misdirect his focus from the newborn fire in Bethany’s eyes, he turned again to Isabelle and kissed the top of her head, desperately trying not to notice how soft and warm it felt.
‘Let’s play...’ 
Darren said jovially. 
‘...do you know hide and seek?’
Isabelle’s eyes widened with sudden joy. 
‘I’m the best!’ 
She exclaimed.
‘Oh really...?'
Darren said. 
‘...prove it. Can you count to twenty?’
‘Sure...'
Isabelle replied. 
‘...watch this...’ 
She playfully covered her eyes. 
‘...one, two, three...’

A sudden blast of wind blew inwards from the open window and Isabelle fell backwards, instinctively opening her eyes as she fell, her hand losing purchase on Mr Teddy. She must have been sleepwalking again, just like her daddy had warned her about. It was one of her dreams, one of her crazy dreams. It had to be. Her sister was sick. There was no way that being ill, as ill as she had been, her sister would have been able to soar upwards into the sky with her boyfriend like that, holding each other and spinning into the darkness like a pinball, silver and alight with moon lit fire. It looked like they were headed a long way, high, too high, so high Isabelle herself would have been scared to look down. Not too far, Isabelle hoped. Darren had promised he would play with her. He was nice and she liked him. He always told the truth.

Isabelle decided to close the window, just in case mummy and daddy wondered where they had gone, and finish her count of twenty before going searching.

Darren and Bethany had no idea what they were in for. She was very good at hide and seek, and even if it took forever, she would find them.