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Authors: Barry Hutchison

The Darkest Corners

BOOK: The Darkest Corners
9.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


For my son, Kyle, the inspiration for this series.
This is it. Kyle versus Dad. You against me.
May the best man win…



Title Page




Twelve Hours Earlier...

Chapter One - The Beginning of the End

Chapter Two - Power Struggle

Chapter Three - The Tower

Chapter Four - Familiar Faces

Chapter Five - Just Not Cricket

Chapter Six - Ready at Last

Chapter Seven - Mr Lazy Bones Wakes Up

Chapter Eight - The Truth is Out There

Chapter Nine - Taking Blame

Chapter Ten - Saying Goodbye

Chapter Eleven - Four by Four

Chapter Twelve - The Wrong Door

Chapter Thirteen - Danger Doc

Chapter Fourteen - A Cold and Lonely Death

Chapter Fifteen - Hello There, Mr Squirrel

Chapter Sixteen - The Long Walk

Chapter Seventeen - Ring of Death

Chapter Eighteen - Betrayed

Chapter Nineteen - The End of the Beginning

Thirty-Four Days Earlier...




Also available in the Invisible Fiends series



About the Publisher

hat had I expected to see? I wasn't sure. An empty street. One or two late-night wanderers, maybe.

But not this. Never this.

There were hundreds of them.
. They scuttled and scurried through the darkness, swarming over the village like an infection; relentless and unstoppable.

I leaned closer to the window and looked down at the front of the hospital. One of the larger creatures was tearing through the fence, its claws slicing through the wrought-iron bars as if they were cardboard. My breath fogged the glass and the monster vanished behind a cloud of condensation. By the time the pane cleared the
would be inside the hospital. It would be up the stairs in moments. Everyone in here was as good as dead.

The distant thunder of gunfire ricocheted from somewhere near the village centre. A scream followed – short and sharp, then suddenly silenced. There were no more gunshots after that, just the triumphant roar of something sickening and grotesque.

I heard Ameena take a step closer behind me. I didn't need to look at her reflection in the window to know how terrified she was. The crack in her voice said it all.

‘It's the same everywhere,' she whispered.

I nodded, slowly. ‘The town as well?'

She hesitated long enough for me to realise what she meant. I turned away from the devastation outside. ‘Wait… You really mean
, don't you?'

Her only reply was a single nod of her head.

' I snapped. It couldn't be true. This couldn't be happening.

She stooped and picked up the TV remote from the day-room coffee table. It shook in her hand as she held it out to me.

‘See for yourself.'

Hesitantly, I took the remote. ‘What channel?'

She glanced at the ceiling, steadying her voice. ‘Any of them.'

The old television set gave a faint
as I switched it on. In a few seconds, an all-too-familiar scene appeared.

Hundreds of the creatures. Cars and buildings ablaze. People screaming. People running. People

Hell on Earth.

‘That's New York,' she said.

. Another channel, but the footage was almost identical.



‘I'm… I'm not sure. Somewhere in Japan. Tokyo, maybe?'

It could have been Tokyo, but then again it could have been anywhere. I clicked through half a dozen more channels, but the images were always the same.

‘It happened,' I gasped. ‘It actually happened.'

I turned back to the window and gazed out. The clouds above the next town were tinged with orange and red. It was already burning. They were destroying everything, just like
told me they would.

This was it.

The world was ending.


And it was all my fault.

he world changed.

It happened in an instant, but it felt like an age as my mind swirled with everything I had just gone through. Running from the screechers. My battle with the Beast. Discovering that Ameena wasn't real – had
been real. But through it all one thought loomed larger than all the others.

My dad. A tape recorder. A
from the tinny speaker as he shot and murdered my mum. His face, smiling at me. Leering, laughing.

And then an explosion inside of me. A rage, like nothing I had ever felt before. He had killed my mum. He had made me listen to her dying screams. And then he had run away.

But no matter how fast he ran, it would never be fast enough. I was coming for him. This, finally, would be the end.

Shadows engulfed me as I arrived in the Darkest Corners, the Hell-like alternate reality where all forgotten imaginary friends go. The world I'd left behind had been blanketed by snow, but here the ground was awash with filth and stagnant puddles.

The buildings around me were the same, but different. These were crumbling relics of those back in the real world, all boarded-up windows or burned-out shells. They were barely visible in the faint glow of the moon.

I spun on the spot, searching for any sign of my dad. He'd had only a few seconds' head start, so he should have been somewhere close by. I peered into the gloom, trying to find him, but a sharp cry from behind made me turn.

Something skinny and rodent-like bounded towards me on spindly legs. Its tongue flicked hungrily over two sharp teeth and its beady eyes glistened in the darkness.

Back in my world I had unique abilities – abilities that would make dealing with a creature like this child's play. I could conjure up a machine gun, or a chainsaw, or simply imagine the thing out of existence. I could do all that back there. Here I was powerless.

But I was too angry to care.

The rodent pounced and I was ready for it. I ducked to the side and made a grab for a rock on the ground. As the monster rounded on me I drove the grapefruit-sized stone against the side of its head. It went down with a squeal, and the rage that had brought me here tightened its grip round my chest.

I brought the rock down once more on the creature's head. It squealed again. I kept going, kept hitting until the monster fell silent. My breath came in unsteady gulps as I stood there, staring down at the dead thing in the dirt. My eyes crept to my hand, and to the blood-soaked rock it held.

I looked down once more at the creature and told myself I'd had no option. It or me. That had been the only choice.

I dropped the rock. I turned away. And I saw my dad.

He was standing in a sliver of moonlight just twenty metres away. Close enough for me to see the grin on his face. Had he been smiling when he killed my mum? That was something for me to ask him when I was choking the life from his body.

‘Good work, kiddo,' he called over. ‘I always said I'd make a killer out of you some day.'

I ran at him, no thought in my head but the need for revenge. No emotions left inside me but hatred and rage. His smile broadened, and I loathed him even more.

‘Not so fast,' he said, and the darkness around me shifted as if alive. Something snaked across my path and snagged my feet. I fell hard, clattering against the cracked tarmac and rolling to a stop.

Shapes emerged from the shadows on all sides of me. Monstrous figures and grotesque, deformed faces loomed down. The things in the darkness all looked different. There was nothing to link them to one another, aside from the hatred that burned in their eyes.

I tried to get up, but whatever had tripped me now held my feet together, keeping me from moving.

Shoes scuffed on the road. I looked up and saw my dad stop beside me. He was still smiling as he shook his head and made a soft
noise below his breath.

‘Too easy,' he said. ‘You'll never get to me like that.'

‘Kill you,' I said, half sobbing. ‘I'll kill you.'

He looked at the circle of freaks surrounding us. ‘Hear that?' he said. ‘My boy's going to kill me.'

The figures began to snuffle and snort with laughter. Someone behind me let out a high-pitched giggle. A memory of hearing it before stirred at the back of my head, but then was gone.

My dad looked down at me again. ‘You're not going to kill me, kiddo. You can't kill me. At least,' he gestured around him, ‘not here.'

His knees
as he squatted down beside my head. He stroked my hair. I pushed his hands away and the night was filled with that laughter again.

‘It's been a long road, son,' he said. ‘You've worked hard, but it's almost over. You're almost done. The barrier between this world and yours is almost gone. One more big push should do it. One more big push and your world is replaced by this one.'

He straightened up. ‘But you can't push it from here. You need to go back there. Use those abilities of yours. Do something spectacular. And then it'll all be over.'

I gritted my teeth. ‘I'm not going anywhere.'

His smile widened further until it was nothing but teeth. ‘Wrong,' he said, then he drew back his foot and a jolt of pain snapped back my head.

‘Come on. Come on, wake up!'

My body and brain roused together. There were hands on my shoulders. I lunged forward, brushing them off and grabbing for whoever had touched me.

My hands found Billy's windpipe and forced him backwards into the snow. Billy had been the hardest boy in my school once upon a time. Back when I'd been trying to stop Caddie and Raggy Maggie, he'd even stuck a knife into my stomach.

And now here he was, pinned beneath me, his eyes shimmering with panic, his breath stuck halfway down his throat. My hands twitched. I could squeeze, pay him back for the years of misery he'd inflicted on me. I could squeeze, and I could keep squeezing.

But Billy had changed. Or maybe Billy had stayed the same, and I was the one who was different. Whatever, he wasn't a threat to anyone any more. He'd helped stop the Beast. Impossible as it seemed, he and I were on the same side these days.

I relaxed my grip, then removed my hands from his throat. ‘Sorry,' I said, my voice hoarse. He gave a bug-eyed nod in return and gingerly rubbed his throat.

‘Don't worry about it,' he croaked, and we helped each other up out of the snow.

The body of the Beast still lay motionless on the ground, its blood pinkening the snow around it. I forced myself to think of it in those terms – an “it”, a “thing”, because the reality was too terrible to consider. I didn't want to remember what – or rather
who –
the Beast had once been.

But it had saved me, and that told me the person it once was had still been in there somewhere, buried deep down beneath the scales and the claws and the slavering jaws.

The other beast, the one that had started the whole nightmare off, was nowhere to be seen. We'd killed it, the three of us together – Billy, Ameena and me – but now it was gone. It was no great surprise. I'd learned from Mr Mumbles that if you killed anything from the Darkest Corners when it was in the real world, it was reborn back over there.

That monster still lived, but there was no coming back for the one who had saved us all.

Ameena was sitting in the snow, staring at nothing, her head shaking ever so slightly left to right. She'd discovered she wasn't real, that every memory she had was false. She was “a tool”, my dad had said. A tool my terrified mind had created to save me from Mr Mumbles. With just a few choice words, he'd shown her that her entire life was a lie.

I stood over her, no idea what to say. What
I say? How could you help someone who didn't really exist? In the end, I said the only thing that came into my head.


She blinked, as if wakening from a dream. Her head stopped shaking and tilted just a little. Her dark eyes peered up at me from behind a curtain of darker hair. She breathed out a cloud of misty white vapour.


‘You OK?'

She shook her head again. ‘Not great. You?'

I shrugged. There was a throbbing in my jaw where my dad had kicked me. Another addition to go along with all the other aches and pains throughout my body. ‘Been better.'

A piercing scream came from the direction of the police station. The screechers – the zombie-like things that had once been the people from my village – had been driven back by the battle of the Beasts. Now they emerged cautiously from streets and alleyways on all sides, their black eyes gazing hungrily upon us.

‘Screechers,' Billy whispered.

‘I know,' I said. ‘I see them.'

They were at various stages of mutation. At first we'd thought they were all just zombies. Then we'd discovered that this was just the first stage in a transformation that would eventually see them become like the Beast itself.

Some of those that moved to surround us now were still shuffling on two legs. Others crawled through the snow, their shapes barely recognisable as human.

‘What do we do?' Billy asked.

‘I don't know.'

I could feel Billy glaring at me. ‘You don't know? What do you mean you don't know?'

‘I don't know, Billy.' I squeezed the bridge of my nose, trying to ease the headache that spread out from there. ‘It's been a bit of a rough day.'

‘Well, it's going to get rougher if we don't do something,' he pointed out. He looked around at the screechers. They were still approaching slowly, eyeing the fallen Beast, not yet realising it was dead. The moment they did, there would be nothing to hold them back.

I turned to Billy. ‘And what should we do?' I asked him. ‘Because I'm open to suggestions here.'

‘We run,' Billy said. ‘We can run.'

‘Run where, exactly?'

‘The church,' he said quickly. ‘We can hide in the church.'

I shook my head. ‘No, we can't. It's full of screechers. They'd—

Billy pushed past me, panic flashing across his face. He made a dive for Ameena, but she was too fast. I turned to see her sprinting away, running straight for the closest group of screechers.

‘Ameena, stop!' I cried, but she didn't slow. The screechers ahead of her began lumbering more quickly, teeth gnashing as they staggered forward to intercept her.

‘What's she doing?' he asked. ‘Is she trying to get herself killed or something?'

The realisation hit like a hammer blow. ‘Oh, God,' I whispered. ‘She is. That's exactly what she's trying to do.'

Taking their cue from the others, the rest of the screechers began to pick up the pace. Their screams and howls filled the air as they began shambling and leaping and bounding towards us and towards Ameena.

I heard Billy whimper. ‘We're going to die. We're going to die!'

‘We can't die,' I said. ‘If we die, then he gets away with it. He gets away with killing my mum.'

A jolt of electricity buzzed through my scalp. I knew that using my abilities was playing right into my dad's hands, but what choice did I have? If I died, he got away with it.

And there was no way he was getting away with it.

I closed my eyes. The blue sparks I saw whenever I used my abilities shimmered behind my eyelids as I raised both hands and let my imagination take over.

There was a
as a circle of snow swirled up into a blizzard around us. It hit the screechers like a solid wall, battering them back, buying us some time.

Ameena stopped running. She didn't turn to look at us, just sank down on to her knees and stared straight ahead. I set off towards her, pulling Billy behind me.

‘Come on, help me get her,' I said. ‘We'll take her to the church.'

‘I thought you said it was full of screechers?'

‘It is,' I said, and the sparks flickered behind my eyes. ‘But leave that to me.'

BOOK: The Darkest Corners
9.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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