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The Unusual Thief

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A drug addled youth is dragged into an alternate world by a dimensional parasite. Cursing and combat abound as the anti-hero Stead joins pirates to sail on a sea of blood, the destination? Discovery.

Adventure / Action
Anthony Dowd
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

Stead frantically dragged himself onto the beach; desperately trying to escape death while simultaneously wishing for it. Agony was evident on his face as he gasped and twisted onto his back. Looking down he saw his left leg was deeply decayed, filled with small creatures of the sea. They were eating away at the flesh of his leg, having entered through a ragged hole in his thigh which they now worked at. Every little movement of them seemed intensified, the rustle of their little legs against his bare bone, their miniature mandibles stripping away his flesh. Mercifully there seemed to be no blood, at least I won’t bleed to death he thought. He looked back at the sea; its bright scarlet waves crashing onto the dirty black sand. Incomprehension baffled him, everything was wrong, it was impossible this could be Earth.

Where am I? He asked, his mind filled with the delirium of the mortally wounded. Shortly, he blacked out.

The soft lapping of small waves awoke Stead, his left leg now entirely gone save a few bleached bones on the sand. The last of the creatures bloated and full were rolling off him back into the crimson tide. Now with only one good leg he used his arms to pull himself up into a semi sitting position. Then pulling his long hair from his eyes and mouth he got his visual bearings, it was an island.

Stead hated islands, they were paragons of isolation, this feeling was likely a result of Steads separation from mother Earth (or possibly his detachment from a functioning mental system). Comprised of sharp jagged rocks the island had a dark, polluted looking beach, no plantlife. The entire island was about a hundred metres from end to end, a risible effort at respite from the sea, more a dry place to die than a refuge from the oceans murderous aspect. The sky had the look of a giant bruise the odd sick looking cloud strewn across its vastness. There was no sun; the light came from an indefinable source. The sea was a ferocious liquid fire, foamy and warm. It took all of Stead’s effort to avoid describing it as blood. The only thing other than this alien landscape was a large white coffin on the sand nearby, emblazoned with a golden crucifix. His inspection was disturbed by a crawling sensation on his arm, looking down he saw a foul arthropod running along his forearm. With distaste he swept it away, the action brought his tattoos into focus, large black flames engulfed his entire arms, the story of which came hurtling back into his mind along with the memories of Earth and his real life, the flames of change. Fear and confusion fought for dominance over Steads bewildered psyche.

“What the fuck am I supposed to do now?!” he screamed, his voice hoarse with the effort, his mind brimming with insanity inducing confusion.

Not so far away beneath blackened shingle, Andy was hibernating, his metabolism slowed to such a degree to allow him to survive without sustenance for hundreds of years. Although not at all human he could easily pass for one if he needed to, and now woken by Stead’s loud scream of despair he knew prey was near. Just above him in fact. It was time to initiate a deception, remoulding his physical form he slowly and purposefully began to dig his way to the surface.

Darkness, absolute darkness was the first thing Paul noticed when he awoke. Darkness and confinement. As his mind slowly surfaced from the embrace of death he realised he couldn’t move. His arms and legs were pinned to his sides. His second thought was how cold he was, colder than he’d ever been before, a deep penetrating coldness.

I feel cold and empty. I can’t move at all. I’m dead, he thought, Jesus Christ I’m fucking dead!

Paul’s mind spasms and jerks inside its dead, cold cell. His mind is hot with emotion but no matter how it kicks and writhes the body will not respond. Paul was killed earlier and inserted into this coffin. A normal everyday process I suppose, but here the soul was not allowed to glide gracefully into the heavens. It was restrained, forced to stay in residence due to the intervention of ‘higher’ powers. He more than likely has some ambiguous task of dire importance to complete, such is the nature of ‘higher’ powers, gods etc. What is also known of this enigma is that Paul will be discovered by Stead, and Stead will accept him without question.

Slowly and carefully Stead crawled alongside the coffin.

I may as well see whom I’m going to be sharing my death spot with, thought Stead. He grasped the lid of the coffin and flung it to one side. In the coffin was the corpse of Paul, Stead knew instantly he was dead due to the unnatural pallor of his skin, the rigor mortis in his hands and the fact that his head was no longer attached to his body

“Oh, its you” Stead exclaimed unfazed by the sight. Stead took a large syringe full of a clear fluid from one of his pockets removed the needles protective covering. After flicking the syringe he gave it a little squirt then proceeded to inject Paul. First, deep into the centre of his forehead and then in the upper part of his torso near the heart. As Stead finished the operation he wondered why he had done it, he had acted on a bizarre instinctual reasoning but now there was nothing else to do but sit back and see what effect it would have.

Ahaaahhh! Went the mental scream that sliced through Paul’s mind. His skull burst in an explosion of light and a powerful rush powered through his brain as the adrenaline took effect

“Ooh! Ahhh! For fucks sake!!” he screamed actually using his mouth. Then realising that he could use his mouth, he wriggled his lips and made ‘O’ shapes with them enjoying his newly regained muscular movement. Then, ever so slowly he started to open his eyes.

To Stead the sight of Paul’s decapitated head making goldfish faces was rather amusing

“Open your eyes you fool!” he growled, Paul’s eyelids flickered as his pupils failed to adjust to the light.

“I thought I was dead!” cried a shocked Paul.

Stead smiled unpleasantly at him. Paul sat up, or at least his body did. A look of extreme confusion passed across Paul’s face as his brain tried to understand why it had ordered itself into the sitting position yet its perspective remained unchanged. Then he saw his body in the coffin in front of him, minus its head.

“You’ll have to carry it” said Stead; “Maybe if things get bad we can fry it up and eat it.”

Paul used his body to climb clumsily out of the coffin then, with great difficulty, fumbled around inside the coffin until he had grasped his head. He then hoisted it out of the coffin, holding it high to get a good look round. He then exclaimed

“Were on an island and the sea is RED! Its blood! A sea of blood!”

“And where the hell would you get enough blood to make a sea? You’d need some generous fucking donors for that!” retorted Stead.

“Man!” gulped Paul “Where’s your leg at?!”

“It just sort of rotted away…..” replied Stead, his gaze trailing off toward the ocean

“Well what happens now?” asked Paul

“We wait for something to happen, it’s that sort of place…..”

Andy made sure that he surfaced on the other side of the island well away from the prey, this way he could make an approach normal of a human being. He was SO hungry, he couldn’t remember the last time he had eaten, and he ached for sustenance so much that the only thing that stopped him losing his mind was the knowledge that he was soon to be satiated. Crawling out of the hole, he brushed some dirt from his old white robe, straightened some tangles in his long dark hair, pulled on his goatee once or twice then strode confidently towards the two waiting humans.

As he approached them he took stock of their capability to fight him off, Andy preferred weak prey and by the look of these two, he had it. The one with long, blonde hair was missing a leg, a good start. The one legged guy’s muscular arms were smothered in swirling blue-black tattoos, he was dressed simply in a black vest top and matching shorts with a large thick chain hanging from his pocket.

Looks like a right little savage, thought Andy as he considered ways to disembowel him. The other one is carrying his decapitated head like a cherished pet, wearing a long sexy, silk death shroud.

They’ll both be so easy! Thought Andy as he wiped a thin line of drool from his goatee.

“Hello there!” shouted Andy “We all appear to be stranded on this godforsaken island, do either of you chaps have any idea where we are?” Andy’s voice was calm and even, with a distinctly upper class accent

“Who is this dodgy looking character?” whispered Stead to Paul.

“Fuck knows, looks like Jesus Christ superstar in that robe and that hair! Gotta be a wig!”

“Lets talk to him, see what he knows”

Stead began to crawl along the beach towards the approaching Andy; Paul placed his head under his arm and followed Stead.

“My name is Andy, I awoke in a deep hole just on the other side of the island, do you fellows know where we are?” he asked, repeating his question.

“I’m Stead and the headless horseman here is Paul. We have no idea how we got here, where we are or how to get off this island. Were really fucking clueless about the whole thing”

“Then I suggest we do a little tour of the island, see if there’s anything to eat and maybe find some fuel for a fire as it seems to be getting colder” Andy smiled and rubbed his hands together.

“Good idea” agreed Stead “I’ll stay here and be in charge” he finished as he worked a divot into the sand with his butt then he pulled his cap over his eyes and lay back on the warm sand.

As Paul and Andy wandered around the island, Stead tried to grasp the series of events that had led up to this distinctly unusual set of circumstances. He recalled loading up on LSD, nothing odd about that, but the mushrooms as well? At the time he was convinced he could handle it, but during the trip things had gotten weird.

Being relaxed and bemused he felt comfortable enough to take a slow walk down to a nearby 24 hour gas station at which he had intended to buy himself some tobacco and food. Whilst enjoying the balmy summer night and some pulsing geometry, the trip began to intensify with some bizarre intellectual flavours. Approaching his destination which seemed an island of light in the sea of night, a sense of menace began to grow within him. The pleasant visual aspect to his trip was lessening being replaced with a creeping psychotic fear. A quiet unheard voice screamed at him to run, but vulgar logic held sway and he continued on.

He pushed open the door to the gas station shop and entered the chilly air-conditioned area. The coolness was pleasant on his now sweat soaked skin but his drug addled mind left him standing in the doorway staring uncomprehendingly at the range of munchies on a shelf. Whilst figuring out the distance between himself and the chips he wanted, the door behind him opened and another customer entered and walked past Stead, up towards the counter. Stead took a fearful glance over at the stranger, who was foreign within all the laws and customs of Earth. He appeared to be a man of slim build and average height, his strangeness was reserved for other dimensions none of them physical. He was wearing a long dark coat that was tattered and stained in many places. An eldritch symbol picked out in red thread decorated the rear of the coat, its form seeming to twitch and twist as if it hated inspection. Above the symbol perched the head, completely bald, scalp stretched across his skull; grey and mottled. This upsetting apparition turned to gaze around the shop, features that were once normal were now foul, skin was pale almost transparent, lips parched and ragged; he looked like the rotting crackhead from hell. The corners of his mouth twitched erratically. When Stead looked into his eyes he chose instant regret. The infernal eyes burned into Stead’s mind, they were old eyes, old and bitter. Looking into them drained Stead of his own feelings and left him feeling cold and raw. The man’s stare rested on Stead till Stead looked away back to his chips.

Stead desperately tried to decide whether the man was real or an effect of the drugs he was most definitely on.

The way he had floated across the shop making no sound and dressed in that way!

Was he really there?

Dare he check?

What if he’s not there? Just a hallucination! That would be a relief….maybe just best to leave now.

Now panicking Stead turned quickly and without looking up headed towards the door, arm outstretched to receive its resistance. His escape stopped when he heard the strangled gurgling sound from over by the counter. Automatically looking up, Stead’s ravaged mind instantly took in the horrific scene. The diseased looking stranger in the black coat had leaned over the counter and was holding the old gas station clerk by his head lifting him off the floor and with his other hand was pulling violently at his throat, ripping away the skin and flesh to expose shiny wet muscles. A particularly vicious tug at the old mans throat left the stranger holding a handful of stringy red meat, all the while the stranger just looked as if he was stuffing a particularly difficult chicken. The Stranger finally worked himself up into a fervour got his hand round the old mans oesophagus and pulled it free, it slid out of the torso accompanied by a wet snapping sound. The carcass fell behind the counter and thankfully out of view. Stead tried to stop the vomit as it travelled up his throat but did so in vain. Hot steaming gushes of semi digested food splattered on the floor in front of him, the vomit warped and buckled patterning the floor in an amazingly interesting way, Stead was mesmerised for several seconds. Eventually looking up from his yellow and rather lumpy vomit he saw the stranger pull a handgun from the folds of his coat and take aim at him. Stead’s basic instincts took over and he dived for cover, but slowed by the hallucinogenic drugs in his system he was not quick enough. He heard a report from the gun working in conjunction with his nervous system. This evening Stead received a big bloody hole in his leg caused by a hot, fast moving piece of lead that ploughed directly into the meaty part of his thigh. The pain is intense and unconsciousness is imminent.

The warm numbing pain in his leg spreading, he turned and hobbled for the door. At the door he found the murderous stranger waiting for him, his black coat splattered with gore and blood. A grey zombie like hand rose from his side drenched in fresh warm blood. Steads watched the hand rise and gently caress his face smearing his cheek with blood. As skin to skin contact was made, Stead felt as if his soul was retching in an attempt to free itself from the torrent of dark sickening feelings that were invading his mind from the point of contact. He felt invaded in that most personal of spaces, a sick army decaying him from within, infecting him. Yet there was a wobble, the infecting feelings surfed an acid rush and got sidetracked. This caused foul stranger a moment of confusion, curiosity fought with fear for possession of the ragged landscape that was his face. With a burst of instinctual animal terror Stead struck out at the man, breaking the contact. He ran from the service station forecourt gibbering, stumbling onto a nearby road then blacking out. Then he was in the sea, struggling to get ashore, and what a strange shore it was. He made a mental note never to take acid again, if this was an example of the trips he was going to have; he better lay off them for awhile.

Meanwhile Paul was beginning to regret accompanying Andy, as the topic of conversation was taking an odd turn

“Paul my friend, do you like frogs?” Andy innocently inquired

“They’re alright.” Paul replied warily

“I like frogs.” admitted Andy his voice dripping with an unnecessary amount of innocence

“Do you really?” Paul’s eyes slid from side to side as he considered possible escape routes

“Do you know what I do with frogs? Would you like to know? You might like what you hear…..” Andy was using a quiet, sneaky tone to talk

“Erm….” Paul began to disagree unsure of Andy’s tone and subject matter, but Andy interrupted him and continued speaking in a low conspiratorial whisper

“I take the frog or more than one if I’m in the mood. Then I grease those buggers good. I then slide that frog into my ass! They suffocate in there you know!” Andy now had Paul by the deathshroud and his head had become so big, so red that his musty whiskers began to tickle Paul’s neck hole

“Why is your mother there?! You ask?” shrieks Andy

“Erm…what?” asks Paul fear vanishing in the face of temporary confusion

“Well she licks them clean when I remove their dead little green bodies from myself!” Andy’s voice had risen in excited glee during the monologue and his cheeks had turned pink with excitement, his voice then sank to a lower more menacing tone

“Do you know that frogs scream when they die Paul?? Will you scream?! Scream for me Paul!”

Paul was already several metres away and accelerating, but his head start did him no good. Andy, displaying unnatural powers, leaped through the air, hissing. He landed on Paul’s back and grabbing Paul’s head by the hair he threw it over arm into the sea.

Paul’s head was spinning, literally. Through the air it tumbled,

Rocks, sky, rocks, sky then rocks. I’m gonna be sick, thought Paul and smiled happily when he realised he couldn’t.

I hope I don’t hit a hard bit. Rocks, sky, rocks, sky and red water; that’s a new one, he thought. There was a splash then the sound of air bubbling from his ears,

At least I can’t drown, he thought as his head sank slowly to the ocean floor…..

“Slag! Let me tell you what I’m going to do to you, you crippled slag!” screamed Andy, he had Stead by his hair and was dragging him across the island. Andy continued to rant and wave his free hand whilst Stead desperately tried to get himself into position where he could kick at Andy with his only leg. Stead was amazed at Andy’s strength but had known from the moment he had seen him leaping across the island that he was not what he appeared to be.

“I’m going to have for you for my lunch, you one legged punk!” explained Andy

“You ain’t even eating the peanuts outta my shit, I’ll kill you!” threatened Stead, sounding braver than he felt

“Ha ha, you do not understand, I take what I want and cannot be stopped, oh if only you knew my little Stead, if only you knew…..”

Andy swiftly grabbed Stead by the back of his skull and smashed his forehead against a nearby rock, once, twice after the third time the rock was bloody and Stead’s body went limp, Andy cast the floppy form into his deep hole.

“There,” said Andy, “All’s well that ends well.”

Dusting off his hands, he started to do a little jig, kicking his feet whilst humming a little tune.

At the bottom of the hole amazingly Stead was still alive and more amazingly regaining consciousness. He touched his tender forehead and his hand was smeared with blood when he removed it. He wondered what Andy had in store for him, judging by his rather peculiar and aggressive attitude, Stead was pretty sure he wanted no part of it. Reaching for his second syringe, this one full with high-grade mescaline he thought I may not live but I’ll go out happy!

After he finished dancing Andy decided to eat, he crouched over the edge of his hole and peered down into the darkness. At this exact moment Paul’s body desperately trying to walk without being able to see stumbled over Andy sending them both tumbling down into the hole. Stead gawked in amazement as Andy landed hard on the bottom of the hole, only to have Paul’s headless body crash down on him as well. Stead brewed a plot so insightful it had to be birthed with grandiose verbosity

“Stick it in your fucking eyeball, you cunt!” shouting as loud as he could Stead lurched forward and jammed the syringe deep into Andy’s right eyeball. Pressing down hard on the plunger, he watched as the eyeball swelled to accommodate the extra fluid within; then with a slow pop Andy’s eyeball burst. Andy opened his mouth and let out an unearthly moan of pain; then crouching low to the ground he sprang right up out of the hole and up into the sky, shortly there was no sign of him at all.

“A right little situation this is turning out to be AND I’m running out of drugs!” exclaimed Stead to no one in particular. After a few more seconds of shocked silence resolve returned to Steads character

“Well let’s see if I can manage to get my crippled ass and Paul’s headless body out of this hole….”

Much struggling and cursing later, they clambered out of the hole and back onto the beach. Stead was very concerned about Andy. He was sure he hadn’t killed him in fact he doubted he had hurt him that much either and if he was still alive Stead imagined he’d be pretty pissed. Stead managed to make a slow circuit of the island in a hopeless attempt to find Paul’s missing head, when he had no luck his hopes began to sag and he drifted into an exhausted slumber, slumped on the sand.

Awoken by vicious hunger pains, Steads despair grew. There was no food of any kind on this hellish island unless he could live on rock and sand, there was nothing else on the island except for himself and Paul. Correction, himself and Paul’s body.

It’s not really Paul without the head is it? Was it cannibalism if it didn’t have a head? More like a big, plucked, decapitated chicken!

“Stead man, why you drooling like that? Where’d that weirdo Andy go?”

Stead flinched, shocked to hear a voice. On the sand a few meters away emerging from the surf was Paulhead. It bounced towards Stead somehow using its jaw to spring off the ground and propel itself along; the head seemed able to move quite well by hopping about this way

“No way man, that’s buzzing to fuck!” Grinned Stead in obvious amusement.

“Its great innit? Hurts your teeth after a bit though, where’s my legs and shit?” said Paul in between bounces.

Stead picked up the head and passed it to the body.

“We’ve got to get off this island Paul, its affecting the way I think, I was considering eating you…..”

Paul gave Stead an odd one-sided look “Oh yeah? Fucked up. I lost my cap in the sea. Pisser”.

The Captain of the ship sat at his desk in his quarters, the gentle rocking of his ship beneath him had a calming effect. It showed everything was working and also that he was far out at sea and well away from his land bound problems, he was severely in debt, his life had been threatened. As a last resort he knew he could sell his ship which was indeed a wondrous and elegant thing; but he would definitely prefer to auction his penis to a pack of hungry dogs. So he sailed the seas searching for salvation, profit and the syrupy oblivion of dangerous activity. Lately pickings were practically anorexic, so the aimless sailing peppered with desperate hope continued. A loud aggravating knocking at his door disturbed his reverie

“Enter!” shouted the Captain. A tall man with unshaven rough face came in to the room, he was wearing a pair of ragged dark shorts and a very loud, blue “Bermuda” shirt, the kind decorated with many white flowers. An unnecessarily large smile sat on his face

“Oi Cap! I’ve picked land up on the radar, very small, but its reading lifeforms, shall we take a look?” He spoke with a curious nasal twang

“Strange this far out” mused the Captain “perhaps survivors of a wreck, that, or long distance swimmers, we shall investigate first mate, they will pay for their rescue”

“Ok Cap, I’ll make the adjustments to our course”

Paul’s body was holding its head high up in the air, beady eyes were scanning the horizon. Then Paul spotted a ship. It was approaching from a great distance; he spent several minutes squinting at it until it was more in focus. It was a grand vessel, dark and impressive with huge black sails and a massive stack like chimneys belching forth clouds of steam. The main body of the ship was tapered to a three pronged ramming spike adorned with various trappings, skulls, red banners and chains. There appeared to be no crew on the deck, the lack of activity gave the eerie impression of an abandoned ghost ship. The ship came to a halt about a mile or so off shore and there it waited, crouched on the sea looking like a coiled, venomous serpent preparing to strike.

“Stead, wake up!” Stead was thrashed from his slumber by Paus frantic tugging

“There’s a big black bastard of a ship parked up over there.” Stammered a disturbed Paul “I’m pretty sure they gonna kill us!”

The huge evil vessel had instilled in him a feeling of dread, a vessel represented rescue but its appearance promised murder and possibly a little rape. Stead roused by Paul’s warning looked in the direction he was pointing

“You’re not wrong! But maybe we’ll get lucky and they’ll save us, provide us with food and shelter”

They both looked back at the monstrous craft, whose engines had now ceased rumbling and both were certain that discomfort and death was the more probable outcome.

A launchcraft was dropped from the ship, black in colour for this absence of any other colour was the motif of these particular pirates. It was a wide, flat craft carrying several, even from a distance, intimidating people. Stead knew the launch was powered by combustion due to its speed and the droning roar he heard as it bounced over the breakers. Its engine stopped several yards offshore, allowing it to drift into the shallows, some of its crew jumped into the crimson surf to pull it onto the beach. They were a rough looking lot Stead thought, not one pretty boy among them. They were all scars, missing teeth, eye-patches and badly fitting clothes. They were also armed, weapons brazen and secretive all about their persons. Looking like potential thieves and murderers Stead was warming to them already, they were the sort of people he knew and understood. One of their number rose from his seat in the craft, taking an age to unfold himself. Stead estimated him at least seven foot. Sporting a thick brown beard and a long unruly mane braided with small bones. He was draped in a long black trench coat, patched and torn in many places and in his hand a lethal whip of coiled razorwire. Stead was reminded of some kind of undead creature, a ghoul perhaps, or king of the ghouls. The tall man was bony, his skin pale, weathered by life on the seas. His expression blank, it was excellent poker face perfected for intimidation. His piercing glare studied them both carefully until another younger man pushed his way to the front of the pack and broke the tension. This one was almost the opposite of the sinister and evil man who was obviously the leader of the group, he bustled to the front and past his boss with a large cheery grin on his face, he was wearing a bright blue ‘Bermuda’ shirt with a white flowers design. The man had short hair in no particular style, his physique was sinewy and he had extraordinarily big hands covered with burns and scars. He was definitely a man who affected the world with his hands. Stead was relieved to see someone smiling so smiled back to reduce the tension.

“Alright mate, I’m Ache the first mate of the lovely sailing ship Satan, isn’t she a beauty?” he asked, stepping aside to give a better view of threatening, monstrosity planted on the horizon

“Er yeah, buzzing ship, shit hot name!” Replied Stead a little uncertainly, shaking Aches offered hand

“Yeah we wanted a name that said, our ship is big, evil and full of seamen. Know what I mean?” jibed Ache, eyebrows arcing towards his unruly hairline. The larger man looked a bit miffed at this interruption of their intimidation, but Ache continued

“Yeah man if you want a lift, come on board and we’ll smoke some weed yeah?”

At this remark Steads relief peaked and he knew everything would be alright.

Soon Stead and Paul were on board the launchcraft, red spray splitting the air. On their approach to Satan they realised how truly daunting it was up close, comprised of black wood patched in places with many sheets of blacker metal it was obviously designed by a man obsessed with the word ‘Ominous’. Lower parts of the bow were stained red from the sea it travelled. It was a sleek and very long, Stead guessed at least four hundred meters, with an immense spanker, such a spanker it was. A multitude of gunports housed snub-nosed cannons along its length, it also had another multipurpose powerboat dangling from its side ready to launch, similar to the one they were in. As they approached the ship Ache scratched his stubbly chin and continued to babble at length

“Well you see, we is pirates, taking livestock off peasants, taking passengers then selling them as slaves” Stead did a double take at this one.

“Oh don’t worry man, we won’t sell you! From the look of you, you aren’t worth shit anyway! Hah!”

“Err FUCK YOU?” said Paulhead loudly. Everyone in the boat turned to stare at him, Stead gave him a look that said Paul why are you cursing the large band of murderous cutthroats we happen to be sharing a boat with?

“Settle! Settle!” placated Ache pressing his hands together in a calm down movement

“I am only referring to your lack of certain requirements you need to be a decent slave, Blondie there” Ache said indicating Stead “Is one leg short, meaning he got no walking around or climbing potential”

“We can sort that out” was the surprisingly loud murmur from the Captain. The first time he had spoke. Stead noticed the man had multiple piercings in his nose, eyebrows and ears

“Yeah true, we can sort that out for you if you like” added Ache nodding

“How do you mean?” inquired Stead, hoping they meant what they possibly couldn’t, the return of his ability to walk.

“We’ve got a fully equipped cybernetic lab on-board, we can give you some legs, they wont be yours or flesh and blood but you will be able to walk again” Ache told him “What about you mate?” asked Ache indicating Paul “Want your head sorting out?”

Paul looked at him quizzically “What’s wrong with my head?”

Being on the deck of Satan for the first time Stead and Paul were even more impressed by the ship, it imposed itself upon them. The way it had been built the timbers and metal of the ship combined in an almost organic way to form different deck levels and other features, it gave the impression of walking on the back of some huge deformed sea creature. This effect was magnified by the sails that hung in the breezeless air like immense folded bat wings.

Steads obsessive appreciation of Satan was demolished by Ache getting in his face all hands and smiles

“Blondie! I’m going down to the lab” he paused to pull on the blunt which always seemed to be in his fingers, a smoky exhalation later Ache continued

“Gonna start the process for your legs, just chill up here for a bit. I’ll come get you when its go time” Ache tossed a pack of supersize rolling papers to Stead who caught them

“Make yourself useful” Ache then went below deck via one of the many doors.

The rest of the crew dispersed about their salty, masculine duties, while the Captain stalked to the upper deck to overlook his underlings like a murderous mother crow, he glared suspiciously at Stead and Paul, making it evident that he did not yet trust their presence. They watched some of the crew wind up the anchor and Stead noticed with interest that some of them possessed efficient looking mechanical arms one had a glowing green eye.

“I told you something would happen” Stead reminded Paul, as he looked around the ship

“Shit happens!” mused Paul

Satan’s engines roared back into life with an unearthly rumble and the great ship started its slow journey toward the horizon leaving the small, unnamed island behind. Unseen by anyone, below the level of the sea clinging to the prow of the ship there was a third new passenger. A robe-clad figure, with his long dark hair floating around his head like an evil halo, the stowaway had one ravaged eyeball and was gritting his teeth in an expression of severe anger.

The inside of the boat was humid, sweaty and reeked of cannabis smoke. Stead had spent the last two hours smoking weed up on the deck, it had been an entirely pleasant experience; the first he’d had in a while. He and Paul had talked with members of the crew as they went about the deck, sharing a joint and a joke with many of them, they were an amiable lot now that Stead had been sanctioned by the Captain.

Not much later Stead was feeling particularly baked; he was lying on a metallic table in a laboratory like workshop, the walls were hung with various mechanical limbs and other forms of prosthesis. There were open cupboards filled with cluttered tools, occasionally a dusty computer monitor beeped and flashed. Ache had just slid a needle into Steads epidermis and injected him. Stead assumed an anaesthetic but hoped for something more fun; things were becoming a little hazy for him, lazy and hazy

“That little shot I just gave you is usually for special occasions! So enjoy it!” squawked Ache as he stumbled round the lab picking up tools and gadgets

“It’ll knock you out pretty fast, so you won’t see any of my skill. What I’m going to do is remove your last remaining leg and give you two new mechanical ones” At this he heaved a box from the labs debris, ripping it asunder with a knife from his tool belt. From within the box came a storm of polystyrene pellets and within were two xenomorphic piston packed limbs. Ache curled his massive mitts around them and drew them forth holding them aloft like some mystical weapons forged in antiquity. He spoke, almost whispering

“With these babies you’ll be able to run at about forty miles per hour, perform a standing jump of about seven foot, and a running jump will eeee murglefog, zeemabowdowwippp chog fong……”

Stead grinned as Aches face stretched until his chin touched the ground, his brain felt like it was leaking.

“Lima boyo scuurrrrrnnnnn?” said Ache smiling “Liven joy tang!”

Stead nodded weakly, his eyes rolled back into his head and he grunted.

Stead passed out.

Paul was pissed off, he’d recently discovered that he no airtight passageway between his mouth and his lungs. This made toking weed a REAL problem, he had gotten a bit battered by Stead giving him blowbacks down the gulping swallowing fleshy orifice in the top of his neck, but the sight of smoke seeping out of the top of a headless body was too disturbing even for Stead. So he gave up in the end. Even more frustrating was that he could feel the effects of the cannabis on his body but not his head which was as clear as crystal.

A straight head and a fucked body! What a predicament to be in, he thought. Stead had gone below for his operation, leaving Paul to reflect on their turn of good luck, they had been rescued and had even smoked up a storm with their rescuers. Eating a hearty meal was now on his agenda although he didn’t want to consider the ramification of eating in his current state. As Paul’s thoughts turned over the events of the past few hours the sky above Satan changed.

The colour was altering; originally a murky yellow it moved through several shades till it became a deep, dark blackness. The sky had suffered absolute annihilation, no stars shone in its vastness, no friendly satellites smiled down. The sickly light provided by the meagre amount of lanterns strewn about the deck was paid no heed. This darkness was not just the absence of light, but a thick black fog encompassing everything. Darkness from the dawn of time, back for revenge.

The deepening gloom made Paul edgy; it was as if it was pressing against him from all angles; he wished he was not so far from a pool of light. He felt tiny cracks of panic in his ego, so decided to head below decks where although more cramped and smelly the atmosphere held considerably less malice. He quickly gathered up his head and held it close for comfort. As he made his way towards the entrance to the galley, he passed hurriedly through a piece of murk not penetrated by any near light and was suddenly blinded unable to see any part of the ship even the floor on which he stood.

To be rendered blind was confusing but what happened next terrified him. All over his body he felt pressure, incredible pressure as if the dark was constricting around him like a giant fist trying to crush his skeleton. Fear gave him wings and he used them well, using all the strength in his legs he staggered forward trying to push through this umbral dictatorship. As if feeling his determination the pressure increased and he was forced down onto his knees, then down onto all fours. Now finding it hard to breathe he knew death (his old friend) was approaching fast. But if this darkness crushed him to a pulp, no amount of drugs would revive him.

Suddenly a bright spear of golden light pushed through the darkness and slowly fought it back, gradually illuminating the scene. Paul felt the pressure fading until he could stand and look around, the Captain was stood in front of him with a long technical torch that dazzled his eyes.

“You should be more careful” grumbled the captain, “It’s getting dark”

“Isn’t it just!” replied Paul “You could do with more light up on this deck! It’s a fucking hazard”

“Not a good idea, the light attracts them” advised the captain; “You should come below now”

Suddenly something small black and generally unidentifiable came shooting out of the darkness to Paul’s right. It cannoned into the captain’s torch knocking it from his grasp sending it spiralling through the air and into the sea with a very worrying splash.

Awoken by a deep bellowing and Ache’s violent shaking of his upper body, Stead was yet again forced into consciousness.

“What’s going on?” he asked, with the true ignorance of the recently slumbering.

“Its getting dark!” screeched Ache “Very dark!”

“Good! Then let me go back to sleep!” pleaded Stead, his eyes still half lidded from the potent anaesthetic.

“No, no! We have to help the Captain and Paul, they’re on deck!” With this Ache gave Stead a mighty push, Stead slid off the operating table and onto the floor where after grumbling for a second, noticed he had legs. They were numb but they were legs, they were shiny but they were legs, they were vaguely insectoid but they were legs! He jumped up with an ease he had never known before (except when on the sweetest of pure amphetamines), he felt weightless. His new legs were armoured and although thinner than his originals felt incredibly sturdy. They ended in curved claw like feet and at the knee joints were several razor like attachments which Stead surmised would be handy in a fight.

“Come on, come on!” urged Ache, “Get your ass on deck!”

Once on the deck, the first thing Ache noticed was the dark, it was darker than it had ever been before. It sat in every nook and crevice breeding malevolence. Ache knew what he should do; he pushed his way through the lighter area of the upper deck to the main external control panel. On it was a switch, which he had added, it tripped every light on the ship and a few he’d modified into overdrive. The power required would use every available volt in the ship’s battery farms but it was called for, all he could hear of the Captain was an angry groaning and from Paul nothing at all.

The lights came on, and Stead dearly wished they hadn’t. As the bright almost blue light shone from every lantern and several huge klieg lights on the ship, Stead was amazed that the light they produced only travelled several feet off the boat before encountering darkness that refused to be illuminated. In this wall of surrounding impenetrable night, things lurked. Shadowy creatures composed of blackness existing for seconds before fading or becoming something less definable. Some were huge and looked as if they were sat in the ocean, the multitude of them were small, darting to and fro amongst their larger companions. They all shared one trait, they scowled with twisted evil faces at the intrusion of illumination, they looked angry.

Stead wasn’t sure he’d seen them at all at first; they seemed to fall back from the light. He was certain they were retreating from it until the first one attacked. Forming out of the murkiness, what appeared to be an immense deformed scorpion. Its various repugnant appendages twitched, tasting the air, and then it moved. It headed towards Stead, its teeth were rows of sharp, needle like points dripping venom. Before he could react it was attached to his leg grinding with its teeth; Stead grinned cheerily and raised his other foot and with all his might sent his clawed metal foot down onto the scorpions carapace cracking it open. With a dark splash it burst over the floor, due to the terrible power of the stomp his foot went through the deck and got stuck in the wood. He wrenched it free just in time to spin on the spot and deliver a punishing kick to an identical scorpion that had just leapt towards him, the kick sent it back out into the dusk at twice the speed it entered. What followed was the most intense test of endurance Stead had ever experienced, well it would have been if not for recently completing ‘The Last of Us’ on grounded difficulty but it was still intense. A horde decoupled itself from the dark mass, splitting off from each other they formed and danced towards Stead, incisors working crustily. Stead was concerned but his new legs engaged combat mode and structural orifices within them glowed green. Stead looked down

“Bout to fuck shit up” he marvelled, then within the limit of a grin he transformed into a kung fu marionette of death. Twirling forwards leg extended he performed an inverted Chun-Li spinning bird kick, black groups evaporated along the length of his leg razors. They massed again and he struck again and again, he destroyed scores of them but an endless stream of them seemed to peep into existence from every shadowed crevice. It was going to be a long night.

Bedraggled and sore except for his legs, Stead took new appraisal of his predicament. The stream of darkness freak babies had slowed giving him a second to breathe. He then realised with hope that the sky was lightening, the gloom was not nearly as absolute as before, maybe the lights were working after all thought Stead hopefully. The creatures it seemed were not ready to end the conflict though. More of them skittered towards him, circling warily, new shapes lumbered up out of the sea and onto the decks. They attacked with frightening speed, Stead could barely cope. He was sure that if it were not for the addition of his new legs he would’ve been horrifically mutilated in seconds. He ran through their ranks dealing out kicks with his razor sharp knees and feet, using his claws to swiftly slash at various bodyparts and then move on, he was the more skilled but they had the multitude. He noticed that as he ended their existence they seemed to disperse and fall apart becoming nothing but shadow. Eventually their tactics changed, they started to circle him and close in, being more cautious and calculating in their attacks. His situation appeared increasingly grim. Especially when one or two of the creatures were lucky enough in their attacks to rip his clothes, coming dangerously close to his precious flesh.

Help in the form of a very battered and bleeding captain rose from behind them. Drawing himself to his full height he uncoiled his whip and with a flick of his wrist sliced several of the larger creatures in half, their body parts fell to the ground to be disintegrated by the rapidly increasing light. Stead could not see the whip travel but could follow its path, its reach was far and its effects sickening. The Captain turned slowly and with a low strong sweep of his whip removed the legs from a host of the twisted scorpions; they screeched in agony and fell to the floor around him wriggling what was left of their limbs. Small ribbons of their shadowy substance littered the fight area like the remnants of a morbid ticker tape parade. The few remaining creatures seemed fearful and began to fuse with the more natural shadows, they grew less and less distinct until they were no more.

“Sheee-it! That was a close one baby” Ache said as he climbed from his hiding place dusting himself down.

“Ache” gasped the Captain “Why didn’t you raise the alarm?”

“Oh yeah! I forgot about that, not much point really, you and Blondie handled it alright!”

The captain dropped to one knee, exhausted and exasperated.

Stead just looked on, and then with an extreme feeling of déjà vu he asked

“Where’s Paulhead?” and then with a moment extra thought he added “Where’s Paul’s body?”

A quick search and some muffled screams later they found Paulhead, he had had the sense to have his body stash his head in a nearby barrel. The body they found stumbling round, bouncing off of various obstacles on the ship’s deck, like a very strange pinball.

A few joints later to calm shattered nerves, sat round a table in the captain’s plush quarters. Stead, Paul, Ache and the Captain mulled over the events of the previous couple of hours

“I’m well impressed with my new legs Ache, they’re awesome. Much kudos for sorting them out for me” said Stead, flexing his legs whilst he spoke, the novelty of the mechanical pins that bore him was still in full effect.

“That’s not a problem Blondie, I must admit you seem to have adjusted to them exceedingly well” a pause to puff on a joint, then Ache continued

“Most people require a few days of practice before they can walk straight! You were jumping around and kicking out like a seasoned professional!” congratulated Ache rapidly waving his hands around whilst he spoke.

The Captain spoke up

“I also was impressed Stead, you proved yourself a very capable fighter, I would like to make you a full time Satanist. If you continue to fight like that it will be very profitable for you. It will also allow you to pay off the debt for your new legs”

“I’d always wanted to be a Satanist” Stead replied through choked emotion, pulling himself together he expounded “Satan is a fat ride. I’ll do it, it’s about time piracy was cool again!”

Ache nodded with a grin and passed Stead the joint, his first as a Satanist. They heard a very quiet snoring sound, Paulhead was on the table fast asleep meanwhile his body continued to prepare Shotgun Bongs

“He always been a lightweight?” inquired Ache

“Dunno Ache, Not sure who he is….”

They all shared a look of mild confusion, which passed very quickly

“Fuck it! As long as his body is still cooking up!” said Stead smiling through a cloud of chronic smoke.

“One thing I must ask you Stead, how the hell did you end up on that island?!” said the captain with a look of genuine puzzlement on his face.

“Well I just woke up there, after taking quite a lot of LSD and mushrooms”

“Oh” intoned both the Captain and Ache at the same time, it wasn’t a very good explanation but they both looked as if they understood and they asked no more questions on the matter.

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