Archive for August, 2015

Today I have been thinking about genre in fiction. Not the nature of genre, its benefits and limitations as a means of categorisation, or the merits or lack thereof with regards to so-called literary fiction, but rather, what it means to me personally. Specifically with regard to the principal categories of speculative fiction (SF), namely: science fiction, fantasy, and horror; what I see as being the core elements of these labels, and what I like and dislike about them. I have also been thinking about crime fiction, but I’ll write about that another time.

There have been many arguments put forward about the nature of genre categorisations and the various ways in which they overlap and fertilise one another. There is a great deal of deliberate hybridisation and deconstruction of the boundaries of genre. It is not my wish to add further to this discussion at this point or to deny the imprecise and nebulous nature of genre tags. As I say, I’ve just been thinking about the (slightly bizarre) way the essence of these various genres translate to me. And why I might choose to explore, whether as a writer or reader, a particular area.

Now, anybody that knows me will know that horror is the genre I am drawn to explore most fully. It is my first love, in fiction terms, and I’ve read far more horror than any other genre. It is also the genre which forms the backbone of my own writing. I don’t agree with those who take the view that horror is simply a tone which can be applied to any work of fiction. That it is not a genre, but a stylistic or thematic tool defined by the intention to provoke, fear, dread or terror. I think it is those things, and that, yes, any work of fiction can have these “horror” elements, but I think to look at it solely in these terms is to disregard the fact that it has acquired the trappings of a genre, with convention, and history, and tropes that can be grouped together. And if we are to say that horror is not a genre on this basis, then we can say science fiction is not a genre, but just the application or exploration of science or scientific thinking in fiction form. And so on. So, if we accept there is something we might recognisably call the horror genre, then what is it? For some it is fiction about vampires or zombies, for others it is ghost stories and Gothic fables; some will see it as slasher fiction, with much gore and violence. I don’t know precisely what horror fiction is. I have some understanding of what it is in a historical sense; its relationship to and evolution from the Gothic tradition, and of the various arguments about its nature. But really, I only know what it is for me. Before I go further, I should say, I have a very ambivalent relationship with the term horror, because many of the things that might commonly be assumed to be at the core of horror fiction, I don’t much like or care for — juvenile tales of exploitative (often sexualised) violence, for one. And fiction defined purely by its intention to gross out the reader, for another.

Horror fiction for me is firstly and foremost the fiction of that which is hidden. Almost always with some accompanying aspect of, yes — fear, dread or terror. Certainly with unease. Disquiet. What if that which should properly stay buried finds a way to surface? What if we uncover that which is hidden, and the truth is more than we can handle? But it is this element of concealment that is more central to me than the fear element. It is really a sub-categorisation of mystery fiction in my mind. Allow me to divulge the weird (and let’s not enter into the murky world of weird fiction, and its various categorisations…) nature of my thinking.

I have been involved in various ways over the years with the study of shamanism (another term we could have a very long discussion about) and one of the things that is central to much of the material on shamanism, broadly speaking, is the idea of a tripartite cosmos; a middle world (this one, our earthly realm), an upper world (heaven or heavens, usually layered), and a lower or underworld (a chthonic realm of ancestors, the dead, etc). We could also simply say, Heaven, Earth, and Hell, or we might say, if we are that way inclined, superconscious, conscious, and subconscious and/or unconscious minds. You get the idea.

Now, because my brain is weird, it goes: aha! Horror — the fiction of the underworld. Hades’ scribblings. The stuff that looks at all those things buried away or that we would prefer were buried away. Things that we may obsess over, but that except in comfortable doses for a “thrill,” we prefer to keep at arms-length. Things that are not to be discussed in polite company. Stuff like death. And nasty secrets. And vampires that want to drink our blood (unless we think this is sexy, which — oh boy — is definitely a whole other conversation). Sex, though; that’s definitely there in various ways. There’s the whole Eros/Thanatos thing for a start. Not to mention that sex can involve, for various reasons, a lot of hiding away out of fear, and a lot of secrets we would like to see buried. And these are the things that I like about horror. This is what interests me, and what I seek out in the horror I read, and also why I am interested in writing, primarily, in a broadly horror framework. Because, basically, I find rummaging around in the dark caverns of the psyche fascinating. To my mind, no genre is better placed than horror to explore the hidden elements of society. At its best it can be deeply insightful, satisfyingly philosophical, and bloody unnerving to boot. What’s not to love? Well as I’ve already said, the element that sees the idea of horror as being all about the gore, or the adolescent shock aspects, but otherwise it’s all good (or bad. Whatever).

In the same vein, I see science fiction as being very much the fiction of this world. By which I mean the middle sphere (yeah, I know Middle-Earth comes under fantasy, smart arse), not just Earth. The entire manifest universe (or universes) is the middle world. Jupiter is part of the middle world in shamanic cosmology just as much as Earth, so is Alpha Centauri. Although the planets and stars are taken as a symbol of the upper world (we’ll get to the heavens and upper world in a minute). All that exists in the physical realm as we understand it is of the middle world in shamanic thought. And I say science fiction is the fiction of the middle world because I see it as about ideas (as is all speculative fiction) explored through the lens of scientific application, even if those ideas venture into the metaphysical. In other words, scientific methodology operates in a philosophically materialist framework; fiction that has as its basis the exploration of ideas, themes, or outcomes utilising the tools or framework of scientific methodology is materialist fiction. Ergo, its middle world fiction. And so, contrary to the ideas of many *waves at Margaret Atwood*, it’s also a kind of realist fiction in my mind.

Which means (I know, big surprise and shit) fantasy must be the fiction of the upper world(s). Mmm. The Jungian types reading this may well (quite legitimately), say, hang on there, fantasy is mythic fiction most often, and myth is the realm of the collective unconscious, archetypes and all that do-dah. I would agree. I’m nodding with you vigorously right now. But, but, BUT… the unconscious is the underworld, right? Isn’t that what you said? Indeed *strokes beard sagely* I did say that. At this point I could explore the way in which the deepest level of the underworld, and the uppermost heaven, wrap around and touch each other (in a purely platonic fashion, you understand – hand-holding at best); a kind of, the deeper inside you go, the further outside you go, thingy. But that’s just going to take us to a whole other level, let’s stick to the basics. Fantasy is in my mind primarily the fiction of myth and archetype. But myth serves principally as moral instruction. When Socrates and Plato got a little irritated with the endless repetition of the various stories about the goings-on among the Greek Gods, and announced, it’s all MYTH – god(s)dammit, they were not, as some thought, saying the Gods are not real. They were, rather like Buddha in relation to the Hindu Gods, saying their reality or non-reality is irrelevant, what is relevant is what we perceive to be true without questioning. What is the source of the stories we are told? And how does that influence our values, our behaviour, our choices, etc. It was about moral instruction, and the questioning or lack therof. It was about the quest for truth. Which is the realm of heaven, of the gods, and of myth. And because of the transcendent universal nature of truth as an absolute (as opposed to relative truth), not limited to the archetypes of Jung’s collective unconscious, but expanded into the realms of the superconscious; an exalted state, enlightenment if you will, which it could be said is the ultimate goal and purpose of (true) moral instruction. All of which again exists in shamanic terms in the upper world, that is to say it is accessed via the upper world, and in fiction terms, in my weird bonce, in the realm of fantasy.

So there you have it. A little strange, I know, but when I look at the three core genres of speculative fiction, I see horror as exploring the hidden psychological underworld, and the fear associated with that; I see sci-fi as exploring the ideas of where our thinking in scientific terms might lead us in this world and beyond, and I see fantasy as exploring the mythic moral landscape. There is in truth a lot more nuance and ifs, buts, wheretofores, whys, and maybes, than this piece would suggest, but by linking the core SF genres to my understanding of the three worlds of shamanic cosmology, I have a kind of shamanic mind map that I use to explore genre.

©Jasonbaki 2015


Ghost – Poetry

Posted: August 17, 2015 in Horror, Poetry
Tags: , , ,

Image result for morgue corpse stock images


A sudden seizure sits you upright
Summoning you to awareness
Now you are gripped by fear
At the forms that appear
Through the midnight umbra
Silent and staring
You gather your thoughts
Make sense of it all
This hazy reality
This dread-filled chasm
You scramble for clarity
Evoke rationality
Yet when it is said
That it’s all in your head
It doesn’t explain
The terrible pain
The longing you felt
When they said you were dead.

Originally published in Horrorbound online

©2010 Jason Baki

My story The Garages takes place on the 1st March 1979. The day Joy Division had their 2nd London gig at The Hope & Anchor in Islington:

In that story a character called Jack has a sister who is pregnant at the time. The baby would be aged 36 in 2015. And indeed he is. And a cop. And the lead protagonist in The Tower*, which is a novel project I’m currently working on. There will be many more updates about this project here in the coming months, and possibly another related short story or two…

In the meantime enjoy some Joy Division:

*Codename for the project.

Rowan Park Estate, East London, March 1979.

Jack didn’t mean to lose his temper. He certainly didn’t intend to make his mother cry. But he did, and she had. He faced her in the small living room of their high-rise flat, the vividness of his anger in contrast to the muted décor, the chintz, and the soft furnishings.

“Don’t cry. I’m sorry. It’s just… I’m upset too,” he managed to say.

“What have you got to be upset about?” She said, avoiding his gaze. “I’m the one who keeps everything together around here.” She wiped her eyes with the backs of her hands.

“Yeah, everything’s together. We’re all so together.” He could feel his anger gathering momentum, preparing for another eruption. His face reddened.

“We make do.”

“Yeah. We do that.”

“I thought you were going out. Haven’t you got a band to muck about with? What’s wrong with them? Go bother them.” She said, looking up at last. “Go on, go do whatever it is you do that apparently makes you so hard done by.” She turned from Jack and headed out of the living room into the adjoining kitchen. Jack followed a few paces behind, his footsteps measured.

“There’s nothing wrong with them. And it’s not mucking about. It’s the only thing that makes sense in this shithole.” He paused before adding, “I never said I was hard done by. I said, I need you to listen; to face up to things. To not be… elsewhere.”

“Well go to them. Why are you hanging around here upsetting your mother for no good reason?” She said with her back to him.

“I want things to change. I want you to see that things need to change. I’m fed up of everything. Everyone walks around here like things are all all right when really nothing is. Everything’s falling apart. You’re not even here half the time, first it was dad, and now you. Then there’s Lorraine,” he said, hanging back and loitering behind her.

He was so much taller than she was these days, so much stronger. She seemed weak and frail — pathetic even. Her vulnerability fuelled his anger, and he took a step back, afraid of his emotions; afraid of the way it made him feel looming over this small creature that was his mother. He clenched and unclenched his fists.

For a moment Shirley just ignored her son and flicked the switch on a nearby kettle. She then immediately set about wiping the chipped Formica surface around it with a damp cloth she pulled from the sink. “Now you’re just being daft. I have to work late,” she said, finally.

“So you say.” He began playing with a badge on his jacket. The badge was red and white and designed to look like a famous fizzy drink logo. Enjoy Co-Caine — It’s the real thing, it stated in white lettering.

“Somebody has to keep you fed and watered, not that I get any thanks for it.” She began searching in a cupboard above the sink.

“Well how come you only started coming home late these last few weeks?”

“Lorraine’s pregnant, we need more money. I took on extra shifts. Maybe you should get a job yourself. There’s an idea, eh?”

“There are no jobs ‘round here.”

“There are if you look,” she said, and finally turned to face him with a cup and saucer in hand. She looked at him searchingly as if she were taking in her son’s features for the first time after a long absence. Noting that he had dyed his short dark hair blond, how tall he had become; how hard his dark eyes now seemed. “You could look.”

“Don’t you watch the news? The country is stuffed. Everybody’s striking. There’s no money and no jobs. The sooner the Russians blow this place up the better.” His tone had softened slightly now that his mother had turned to face him.

“I don’t know what’s got into you lately, I really don’t.”

“It’s not me, it’s everyone else. Anyway, Lorraine’s fella works, so why are you doing extra shifts?”

“How long do you think that’s going to last?”

“Why won’t it? Because he’s black?”

“You just said yourself there are no jobs. I never mentioned his colour or said I disliked him.”

“You do dislike him.”

“Jack, stop it! I have never said anything against him. That was your father. It’s your sister’s choice. Besides, there’s a baby now so we just have to put up with it.” She turned away again and began heaping sugar into her cup.

“Fucking hypocrites the lot of you.”

“You need to wash your mouth out. Fancy talking to your own mother like that.”

Jack turned away himself now and started pacing around the kitchen. He opened the fridge and peered inside, but he had no real interest in its contents, which anyhow seemed unusually spare. Closing it again, he walked over to the window and pushed aside the net curtain. From this vantage point, looking directly down, he could see the sprawl of the estate’s council housing, another nearby estate, several streets of red-bricked terraced housing, a local sweet shop, betting shop, and a Chinese take-away. It all looked humdrum and innocuous.

“Can I have some money?”

“What? You ain’t ‘alf got some front!”

“I need money for a gig.”

“Money for drugs more like. Don’t think I don’t know what you boys get up to in those garages. The whole estate knows what goes on there.”

“The whole estate is a bunch of mindless idiots.”

“Pots and kettles, some might say. Why can’t you be into something nice? All this punk nonsense. It muddles your brain.”

“Punk is freedom. It’s the only thing that’s real. Everything else is bollocks. All that psychedelic hippy shit? People ain’t got time to think about free love and outer space when they’re all completely skint.”

“It’s that Paul Timmons. He’s responsible for this. He’s a terrible influence on you.”

“He ain’t an influence on me. I’m nineteen, mum. Anyway, he has done more for me than most other people I could name. I don’t know why you have such a grudge against him.”

Shirley tutted and shook her head. “Take a couple of quid out of my purse on the bedside cabinet. It’s all I have until I get paid.”

“I’m sorry about earlier,” he said, turning from the window and walking back towards her.

“Forget it.”

The kettle began to rumble and expel steam excitedly.

“It’s just… if dad has started hitting you, you can’t let it go on.”

“I said forget it. Please.”

“These last few weeks it seems like everything is just breaking apart, like there are all these… cracks. There’s this heaviness everywhere. And with us. It was bad before, but now it’s even worse. Lorraine, you, dad; this damned block that’s like a broken prison still holding on to its inmates.”

“Prison might do you some good.”

“I suppose you’d like that.”

The switch on the kettle clicked.

“Just go.”

This time he did as instructed. It was his parent’s bedroom, but apart from some shoes, an old pair of work boots, and a bottle of Old Spice, there was very little to testify to the presence of his father. This was his mother’s room, his father just happened to sleep here. He picked up the purse, which lay, as his mother had said, on top of the bedside cabinet. It was big and red. He emptied it of its contents.

“Sometimes things are just what they are, Paul, and nothing we do can change them. We just have to make do the best we can.” Her raised voice carried down the passage, where he imagined she stood pointedly with her cup of tea in hand.

Paul put the money in his pocket. That’s what I’m doing, mum he thought to himself. “Thanks!”


He pressed for the lift. Someone had again smashed the little green number display panel so he couldn’t tell whether it was at ground level or on one of the nine other odd-numbered floors that this lift stopped at, besides the one he himself was on. There was another lift in the block that served the even numbered floors. At the touch of the button, the unhealthy sounding mechanics sprang into action. By the sound it made Jack reasoned the lift was probably somewhere close to the ground. He lit the last cigarette in his pack of ten, and paced squeakily on the plastic tiled flooring while he waited for it to ascend.

Each of the floors in the block had a large window with views across the city. He made his way over to the one on his floor and looked out through the wire-threaded glass to a panorama of Central London. It was now raining hard. Good. He liked the rain. This place, his life, felt to him like it needed cleansing. Maybe if it rained hard enough…  In the distance, against a backdrop of gunmetal grey, he could see the Post Office Tower and St Paul’s Cathedral. It was a enviable view. If he had nothing else, he had no shortage of views. But it was not enough for him to get the frightened image of his mother’s face out of his head. His thoughts returned to their argument, transposing on the external vista his own internal imagery. He watched himself pounding the living room table with his fists, his mother jumping back with fright. He blew smoke at the window.

Out of the corner of his vision he observed a pigeon land clumsily on the edge of a balcony, its head bobbing left and right. He sniggered. Daft bird. He thought it looked bewildered, and lost. It caused him to wonder if the whole estate weren’t some kind of nexus for the lost; a magnet for the terminally disappointed, the discarded, and the forgotten. Or if Rowan Park just eventually made everybody that way. A consequence, maybe, of its isolating architecture and monolithic drabness. Was it possible to design a landscape that induced such qualities? Jack imagined some insidious plan hatched in the mind of the estate’s architects: let’s see how these poor people react to living in these conditions. What a great experiment. Will it alter their behaviour? We could learn so much. Fascinating.

The lift rattled to a stop and opened with a grinding squeal. He stepped away from his London vista, and into the confines of a dimly lit, urine soaked, steel box. He jabbed at the button marked Ground Floor, before flicking his dog-end into the puddle of piss. He listened to it fizzle, and inhaled the acrid smell. The lift initiated its shuddering descent.

The entrance to the underground section of the derelict car park appeared to float before him in a watery haze. As it had done countless times before, it drew him onwards. It was a refuge, and not just from the rain. It was for him and his friends, a private underworld; a chthonic entity of concrete and rust, and a guardian of as yet undiscovered treasure. It was from this place that the forces of destiny operating in his life would manifest. It was from here he would make his mark on the world.

Beyond the used-to-be-sliding metal gates, the darker outline of several huddled figures could be seen. One of them caused an orange light to glow fiercely for a short moment. Jack focused on it like a homing beacon, and splashed through the puddles in his biker boots to reach it.


“Give us a fag then,” Jack said. A half-mumbled “all right,” an “oi,” and a grunt greeted him in return. The grunt he knew came courtesy of Paul Timmons. It was he who had lit the flare that guided Jack. “You are a fag. There you go, dirty queer,” Paul said with a goading smile as he passed Jack a cigarette. Paul was the lead singer in the punk band they named after their favourite meeting spot, The Garages (not Garage City as Jack had originally wanted), and was, with his impressively large blue Mohican, the bands very own living mascot. He served as a symbol for all they aspired to be: one-hundred percent pure punk attitude.

“What’s new then?”

“Jack, why do you always end a sentence with then?” This was Rob. He wore a ripped white T-shirt on which he had scrawled: R.I.P Sid 1957 – 1979 in black ink. Jack approved, and smiled to himself.

“Because I do. What of it? THEN!”

“Now, now, girls. Play nice. So what you got for us, Jack?”

“Nothing much, a couple of quid off me mum.”

“She’s a good ol’ girl your mother, never let anyone say otherwise. You can always rely on her to sort you out.” Paul smirked, and winked at Scott who responded by turning his back and walking away deeper into the interior of the garages.

Jack sucked the air, and clenched his fists. He was feeling particularly tense today. He stared at Paul for a while, who, lost in the act of his smoking, failed to notice. He appeared shrouded in darkness, Jack thought. He was a mystery to the others for the most part, and he seemed to like to keep things that way. But Jack wasn’t only thinking figuratively, the shadows thrown up by the gloomy interior seemed to cling to Paul today, having the effect of causing him to appear as though partially eroded by his surroundings. It was as if the murk was penetrating him bodily.

“There’s a gig at the Hope and Anchor tonight. A band from up North called Joy Division. Supposed to be pretty good. They want seventy-five pence entry,” Rob said.

“Seventy-five? Thieving bastards. I heard about them, they played there in December. So Jess said. They only charged sixty then, and she said it were nearly empty. Forget them. Let’s use the money to get wired and make our own gig.”

“We should rehearse. We need to get things moving if we’re serious about making this band work,” Jack said.

“Bloody ‘ell, what’s happened to you? Mr. Serious. Why did you get money off your ol’ dear if you weren’t planning on getting a little high?”

“I never said I wasn’t planning to get high, I just said we need to get serious about what we’re doing with this band. Don’t you want to get out of this shithole, Paul?”

“Nope, I just wanna get out my ‘ead. I like this shithole. It’s my shithole. And I ain’t giving it up, neither.”

“You’ll probably die here.”

“That’s fine by me. We can’t rehearse yet, anyway: Jess has the keys to the lock up. Just relax, Jack, isn’t that why we come here? Why we made this little bunker our shelter against the fallout of life’s crap.

“Where did Scott go?” Rob interjected.

“I’m over here,” a voice shouted from behind a concrete ramp. “You guys need to come and look at this.”

“Why? What you done, Scott? Pissed yourself? Found your dick and given yourself a fright?”

Rob and Jack laughed.

“Piss off, Paul! I’m serious, there’s something here I wanted to show you, it’s really weird.”


“There’s some kind of… gash, a split in the floor.”

They all laughed harder.

Jack looked around at the interior of the abandoned structure. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary. Graffiti daubed concrete pillars broke the otherwise uniform emptiness. One at least had suffered a strong impact, a collision with a car most obviously: large chunks of masonry were missing from its side and the steel wiring could be seen protruding at various points from within. The rusted shell of a Ford Capri still languished in its final resting place near the rear of the building. Not far away a feeble amount of light filtered in via an additional opening to the outside. Elsewhere, shadows and discarded rubbish gathered in the spaces that had once been reserved for cars that actually worked. Rain pooled in spreading lakes near the centre of the building. Ambient sounds of dripping water and trickling rivulets, accompanied by the occasional clatter of wind-blown metal echoing from somewhere above, filled the space. Concrete ramps led off either side to further parking on the upper floors and on the rooftop, a space which Jack thought by now probably resembled the local lido.

“A weird gash? Have you guys been huffing without me?”

“Don’t be daft. We knew you’d be here. Once you were done cooing over your sister’s half-caste sprog.” Paul sneered.

Jack couldn’t see the sneer, but he sensed it. He tensed and took a deep breath. “My sister is pregnant, she doesn’t have a sprog yet.” He waited for a reply, but none came. “Right, Scott show us this fucking gash.”

The gash, and it could be said that it really was a gash of sorts, was clear to see: it was a ridged tearing of the stone floor, red about the edges like a wound. In length it was perhaps a little over three foot, in width not much more than a hand span, less as it tapered off at both ends. A noxious smell permeated the slightly warmer air about it. It was positioned in a shadowed section near to the last ramp heading upwards as one entered from the front of the building. And there was, even for those who hadn’t spent the better part of the last eighteen months high on various solvents, no logical explanation for what it was and what it was doing there.

“Shit, what’s that?” Jack said.

“How the hell should we know,” Paul said, lighting another cigarette.

“Well, how long has it been there?”

“It was there when I came here on my own last week, that was the first time I noticed it,” Scott said.


“But it could have been there longer. I mean, when do we ever look back here?”

“It stinks, what’s that smell?” Jack said, leaning a little closer. He breathed in the warm stench. “Ugh! It smells terrible. This can’t be right,” he said, backing away again. “It’s giving off some kind of fumes.”

Jack stepped away from the opening in the floor completely. He felt a little woozy. His heart was pounding in his chest, and he thought he heard his name being called by someone from the floor above. “Did you hear that?” He said. His cohorts looked at him quizzically, and Jack thought, a little menacingly. He made to head up the ramp.

“Where are you going?” Scott said to Jack. Jack turned around to face him, noticing that his friend’s shaved head and nose piercings reflected the red of the scarred floor. It made him look sinister in Jack’s eyes.

“Upstairs, someone’s calling my name.” It was then that Jack saw something that shocked him so much he fell backwards, skidding on the inclined stone floor, and coming to rest in a pool of dark water.


Jack was soaking wet and cold. Not just cold, but freezing. It took him a while to get his bearings, and to realise that he was sitting partially submerged in a large puddle of water. He jumped to his feet, and then immediately regretted moving so quickly. His vision blurred. He felt like he was about to vomit.

Then he remembered the others, the shadowy faces that had rushed at him from all sides. Some were even vaguely familiar. More than vaguely familiar. Had one not been his mother? And Paul? But Paul was stood beside him. That didn’t make sense. Panicked, he called for his friends, but his voice was swallowed by the dark and no reply was forthcoming. He could hear the familiar sounds of dripping water and clanging metal. It was so much darker than he remembered it being earlier, he could barely see anything at all. He turned to look behind him, and saw from the muted glow of the street lights beyond the gates that it was now dark outside, too. What the hell had happened? And why have those tossers just left me alone in a pool of water. Confused and angry, he turned around and started towards the exit.

The abrupt noise of a car engine ahead brought him to a halt. He listened intently, transfixed by the sound of screeching tyres splashing through water followed by the slamming of car doors closed with haste. He knew what this meant. In theory the car could be carrying anyone, but somehow there was a familiar rhythm to these sounds. Three figures appeared as silhouettes blocking the exit. A radio crackled. Torches were switched on. Jack still frozen to the spot, flinched as the beam of one caught him directly in the eye.

“Police! Come forward and keep you arms out to your side. Don’t make any sudden moves.”

“What the hell, I haven’t done anything.” Jack moaned, trying to block the penetrating beam of the torch with his forearm.

“Didn’t say you had. But we’re investigating reports of a disturbance, and from what I can see, you look like you’ve been in a disturbance.” The officer stepped forward and grabbed Jack’s forearm in a sudden sidestepping manoeuvre. He stamped a puddle and further soaked Jack in the process. The other two circled behind, torches illuminating the ground before them, and shortly afterwards one of them gave him a shove in the centre of his back. “I haven’t fucking done anything,” Jack complained more forcibly, wincing as his arms were forced into a rear position and his hands cuffed behind his back.

“You can’t arrest me for nothing.”

“You’re not being arrested — yet. I’m placing you in handcuffs for both our safety, and while we try and figure out what has happened here, who you are, and why you’re covered in blood.”

“Covered in blood..?” Jack murmured as he was spun around to look directly at the officer that had cuffed him.

“Stay calm, son, while we try and get to the bottom of this. I’m Sergeant Eades. Now…”

“There’s something over here,” one of the other officers called aloud from further into the gloomy interior. “Bloody hell! What is this?”

“Jenkins stay here and mind our young friend, while I have at look at what Stamp has found.” Sergeant Eades stepped tentatively into the deeper dark.

“Christ’s sake!”

“You can say that again, Sarge. I think he did a pretty good job on this guy.”

Sergeant Eades shot his PC a reproachful look. “What a mess…” He arced the beam of his torch over the sight before him, revealing the horror it illuminated in a piecemeal fashion. “Jenkings! Call for a van, we’re going to be taking our young friend in. And ask CID to attend…  And Jenkins, tell him he is now most definitely being arrested.” He took a deep breath. “Right, Stamp, shine your beam slowly over this section, let’s be clear what exactly we’re looking at, and then we’re going to have to look over every part of this slag heap.”

“It looks like he was thrown against the pillar. There’s steel wiring sticking out from where the concrete has fallen away, here, and here, and both of these have penetrated him. Impaling him through the torso, and then through the neck.”

“You’re a genius, Stamp. I don’t know why you haven’t made DI yet.”

“Thanks, Sarge”.

Sergeant Eades rolled his eyes. “That in itself could be an accident, but Mr. Mohican here looks like he has gone a few rounds with a wild animal. What are all those lacerations? Keep your eye out for a weapon. And stay alert, we don’t know who else may be here.”


“There were four of them, allegedly. All part of a band. A Punk band called The Garages. Can you believe that? These kids would be dangerous if they had half a brain,” Inspector Marriot said.

“I’d say impaling someone and then nigh on shredding them with God knows what is pretty dangerous, sir”.

“Ha! Well, quite.” Inspector Marriot smiled at Sergeant Eades, and took a sip from his tea while pondering his Sergeant’s faultless observation. “We can account for three of them. I want you and the uniform boys to focus on trying to find the one that is missing: Robert Harris.  I have a photograph here provided to us by his parents. Apparently, he has dyed his hair green, and has had a stud put in his left nostril since this was taken.”

Sergeant Eades leaned across the inspector’s desk to get a clear look at the picture. “What about the one that was brought in afterwards? This Scott chap. What’s his story?”

“Haven’t been able to get a word of sense out of him. He doesn’t strike me as particularly bright, and he’s delusional. They were obviously all as high as kites.”


“He has been prattling about some shadow men. We’ll get more sense once the drugs have worn off, I dare say.”

“And what about our man, Jack? What has he said?”

“Not much. Who the four of them are, why they were there. He says they hang about there all the time, it’s like their den or something. You would think they were twelve. He says he doesn’t remember anything else, that he woke up in a puddle, and that he thinks he saw visions of people he knows. And some kind of dark tower. Insists he didn’t do anything. How he can know that for certain if he apparently can’t remember anything else doesn’t seem to have registered. Obviously been inhaling something as well.”

“Tower? He lives in one of the tower blocks doesn’t he?

“Yes, with his mother, father, and pregnant sister. We’re about to bring the mother in to answer some questions. Apparently, he saw a different tower. I have no idea, sergeant, and I’m not minded to get caught up chasing after the phantoms of a drug addled most-likely murderer. I don’t see the relevance of any tower, not the Eiffel Tower, not the Bloody Tower, and not even the one he lives in. All I care to know about from this Jack, is how exactly his friend met his death in those garages? Where this other missing chap is? And which among them is responsible for the mess back there? Since of the two we have, only Jack was covered in blood, I’m also inclined to suspect he may be enjoying selective amnesia.”

“You do realise, sir, that we didn’t recover any drugs.”

“Did you recover drug related paraphernalia?”

“Some, yes, and signs of solvent abuse, but…”

“I think we can be reasonably assured of their narcotic predilection.”

“Did Jenkins show you the mark on the floor back there?”

“No, your man Stamp did, actually. This boy Scott keeps babbling about it, says they came from there. Whoever they are.”

“It is weird. The mark on the floor I mean. I’ve not seen anything like it before.”

“It’s an old building. Has been out of use for years. The Council really ought to have knocked it down by now. Would save us a lot of problems. And they can knock down the whole estate while they’re at it. I suspect this weird mark is just where the floor has cracked through constant flooding, and it has taken on some kind of twisted significance in the minds of these young morons because of whatever the hell it is they’ve been inhaling. Don’t over-complicate things, Eades.”


“You sound unconvinced. Look, whatever that mark is, I doubt it pushed our man onto a foot of steel masonry wire and then ripped him apart.”

“No, sir,” Sergeant Eades agreed. He folded up the picture of Robert Harris and put it in his pocket.


“Do you mind if we call you Shirley?”

“You can call me what you like, it’s not going to make any difference now.”

“You do understand why we’ve brought you here, don’t you?”

“Please, I just want to see my son.” She ran a hand through her dyed blonde hair. It felt greasy.

“You will, but there’s a few things we need to clarify first.”

“My son idolised him. If only he knew.”

“Knew what, Shirley?”

“That he didn’t give a damn about my Jack, or anybody but himself, that he wasn’t some soon to be rock star; he had no talent except as a fraud, a bully, and a user.”

“Go on.”

Shirley looked at the desk that separated her from the two interviewing detectives. She needed something to do with her hands, a distraction. There was nothing on the desk that would do. “Do you have a cigarette, please?”

“Have one of these,” said the second of the two officers, uttering his first words since they had entered the small interview room. He was young and handsome thought Shirley. Very clean and tidy looking. Probably a bit of a mummy’s boy. Nothing wrong with that. He lit her smoke, and she thanked him with a wan smile.

“Shirley, is there something you want to tell us about the relationship between your son and Paul Timmons?” The interviewer continued.

“No, not him. You know he was nearly ten years older than the rest? Why at twenty-seven would you hang around with a bunch of eighteen and nineteen year olds? No reason. Unless you were up to no good.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand, you said not him. A moment ago when I asked about Paul’s relationship to your son. Wh….

“Me,” Shirley interrupted. “Paul’s relationship with me is what you should ask about.”


“He was blackmailing me. Using me for whatever he could get. That’s the kind of man Paul Timmons is. Was. Handy with his fists, too. Good riddance, I say.”


“He told me if I didn’t sort him out, he would tell my husband the truth about our daughter.”

“I see.”

“What do you see? You don’t see anything. You don’t know what life is really like for us on that estate. My daughter is pregnant by a man who brings her to other men to have sex for money. Do you understand? My husband doesn’t know, Jack doesn’t know, the bloke my daughter is supposedly going steady with, and who puts up with no end of abuse from my idiotic husband, he doesn’t know. He thinks he’s the father. The only people who know are me, my daughter, and my daughter’s best friend, Jess, who also happens to have been shacked up with Paul bloody Timmons.”

“How have you managed to keep this hidden from your husband, and from Jack? Surely they would have noticed something going on?”

“Jack did notice. We argued over it earlier today. Charlie, my husband, wouldn’t notice if his own head fell off. You can thank the whiskey for that. And that’s just the way of things. There are some things you can’t change. You just have to make do. Paper over the cracks as best you can, and hope nobody pays too much attention. That’s how we get by in my world, detective.”

“Can I get you a drink, Shirley.”

“Tea, thank you. And some tissue if you don’t mind.”

“Shirley, is there any way in which Jack could have found this out?”

“I don’t see how. Paul wouldn’t tell while he was onto a good thing. Neither would Jess, whether for fear of Paul or supposed loyalty to my Lorraine.”

“Okay, thanks Shirley. I’ll get you that tea now.”


“What a mess this is, sir”.

“We have a motive now, sergeant. If we can prove that our man Jack knew about this blackmail, and the abuse of his mother.”

“But did he? His mother says he didn’t, and it doesn’t make sense for Timmons to have told him. So how would he have known?”

“Maybe Timmons told one of the others? A boast of some kind. And then they spilled the beans to Jack. It would make sense, don’t you think? We had better have another chat with him. And another thing, have you considered why Jack’s mother volunteered the information about her and Paul Timmons so freely? If, as she claims, he didn’t know, then why would she tell? With Timmons dead that’s her problem solved, surely? If you were in her position you would hope this wouldn’t get out at all.”

“She may just be a honest woman. She doesn’t strike me as the most devious of types. Or she may be attempting to pre-empt what she thinks of as inevitable, knowing that we would now investigate all avenues. The other thing is we still don’t really know how he, or they, could have done it. He was covered in blood, but the blood was on his shirt mostly. His hands had no blood on them from what I could tell. Yet this Timmons fellow was pretty much shredded, I think you’d agree, and by what? We’ve found no weapon. And if Jack had done that surely he would have had blood all over his hands?

“He could have washed them in the rain water. There were huge puddles everywhere in those garages. Didn’t he say he fell in a puddle? The blood could have washed off his hands and arms, but obviously wouldn’t have come out of his shirt. We haven’t found a weapon, but we’ve also got a missing man. This Robert Harris most likely ran off with the weapon or weapons. We have no idea what his part in this is yet. All three of the younger boys could have decided to do in our man Timmons. Although this Scott chap hasn’t so much as a speck of blood on him.”

“I’m not sure, sir. We don’t even know for certain that this Harris was there, and this Scott lad was found on the second floor cowering in a corner, claiming that that crack in the garage floor had caused some kind of shadow men to appear.”

“Drugs, Sergeant. Not much we can do about that, sadly.”

“He said this was just the start, and that cracks would soon appear in all our lives,” Stamp said, making both Sergeant and Inspector jump.

“Stamp, what is it?”

“That’s what this Scott fellow said in interview, apparently.”

“Is there something you particularly wanted, Stamp?”

“We’ve found Rob Harris. It’s not good news. He has apparently thrown himself off the thirteenth floor balcony of a flat in Aspen Court. Girlfriend’s parent’s flat. Jenkins is there getting the details for CID now.”

“How do we know he wasn’t pushed?”

“We don’t, but it looks that way. There was a note on him, Sarge”.

“A suicide note?”

“Not much of one. It’s a bit bloody, do you have gloves?”

“Just show it to me.”

Stamp unfolded the square paper that looked like it had been ripped from out of a school exercise book. It was marked by splotches and smears in several shades of red. In the centre, written in what appeared to be black felt tip pen, there were two sentences:

Not Jack. Not just in the head.

“Christ’s sake, sir” None of this makes any sense.



The Garages by Jason Baki ©2012