The Redemption Machine

New Year’s Eve, and we all stand in line, but not for a party. Not yet, but maybe later for 90% of us. At 61 years old I’m one of the oldest people in this town, but this is the first time in my life that we’ve faced this date with genuine hope that the year ahead will be better than the one just passed.

This has not been a good year, with the ever-present poverty and shame giving way to nationwide mourning after the passing of our last king. The irony that the royal bloodline ended with the death of King William in 2066 was stark to me but lost on most people. There are few schools still standing, and those we have don’t teach history. At least, not any further back than the Civil War which started nearly 50 years ago now.

We won the war, and by “we” I mean The Rich. And lucky me, I was just old enough to fight in the last few years of it. I was only 18 when I served at the Slaughter of Salford, lauded at the time as our most noble victory, lamented nowadays as our most callous atrocity. It turned the tide of the war irrevocably in our favour, and was a key component in our ultimate triumph.

It was a pyrrhic victory. After years of fighting, and wasting all our resources to subdue or kill those less fortunate than ourselves, we ended the war poorer than our enemies had been at the start of it. We celebrated VP Day with stale bread and dirty water.

Guilt over the Civil War, and our failure to restore even the most basic levels of prosperity, have shaped both our national identity and everyday lives ever since. Countless initiatives have been tried down the years to solve these dual problems and all have failed miserably. But this latest invention promises to change our lives forever – The Redemption Machine.

Some people say it’s a product of genius, others that it’s a gift from God, while some claim that it’s just an infernal contraption which tortures indiscriminately or at the behest of the hierarchy. You don’t want to know what I think. Even I don’t want to know what I think. It’s dangerous to have opinions round here, and potentially suicidal to actually voice them.

What most people don’t know is that the machine was originally called The Decimator, but the council decided that the name had too many negative connotations. Yes, it would kill a tenth of the population, but only as part of the streamlining and self-improvement of the country as a whole. No point worrying the populace by selling it on its least appealing aspect.

It’s a magnificent and terrifying sight. A colossal mechanical beast, twenty feet high, ready to unleash its wrath. The technology behind it looks about two centuries out of date; it appears to be powered by steam and clockwork. I can see a vast, intertwining network of cogs, pulleys and pistons, but there is nothing whatsoever to indicate what might actually take place inside.

I watch the first man approach the machine. He seems to feel everybody’s eyes on him, because he looks self-consciously around as he steps in. There is a moment of complete silence. A collectively held breath. And then the screams begin. His howls of terror and agony transfix all of us stood outside, and the overwhelming sense of our own dread increases with each and every second that passes. Some in the line are shocked, but it’s just what I expected; nothing comes easily anymore, and redemption has its price. This year was always going to be the worst, anyway. On subsequent occasions we will only have twelve months of sin to purge, but today it’s our whole lives.

The screaming stops, and something amazing happens. The man re-emerges looking younger and infinitely happier than he did before he went in. He beams, waves to the onlooking crowd, and hugs the machine’s attendant in a warm and enthusiastic embrace.

The next person to go through is a young woman. I don’t know if the machine is chivalrous, but her ordeal appears to be much briefer and less extreme. However, when she comes out she doesn’t seem to appreciate this. She looks as if she feels cheated out of the transformative experience that her predecessor went through.

The people around me speculate that the machine inflicts the most pain for longest on the people who deserve the most punishment, but they in turn receive the most benefit from it. There is even some indignation at the perceived unfairness of them being thus rewarded for their misdeeds. Such talk ceases when the next man undergoes what sounds like an ordeal of unimaginable suffering, for a duration that seems never-ending. I wonder what he might have done to deserve such retribution, and am curious to see what state he’s in when he leaves the machine.

But when his cries finally come to an end, there is no sign of him. Instead, the machine’s attendant appears, addresses the crowd and announces “His body lives not, but his soul is saved. He is redeemed.”

Cheers go up all around me. I suspect they are celebrating their own increased chances of survival, rather the salvation of the soul of this presumably hitherto wicked man. We are here for redemption, but none of us want to join the ten percenters.

For the next few hours I watch a succession of people receive their penance and come out altered, or not at all. I try to count them, to keep a tally of the 10% quota and also because seeing them as numbers makes it seem less real. But inevitably, my mind wanders. It wanders back to Salford, and the faces of the children…

My turn finally comes, and as I step into the machine I just have time to think: I hope it doesn’t know about-

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The West Midlands Book Signing & 1940’s Ball! February 4th 2017!

jaywillowbay

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Don’t miss out on The West Midlands Book Signing on 4th February 2017! The following authors will be there signing books, giving out swag, raffle prizes and other cool stuff! Afterwards there’s a 1940’s ball, complete with a singer!

DATE AND TIME

Sat 4 February 2017

10:30 – 23:30 GMT

LOCATION

Casey’s, Cordingley Hall, Telford, TF2 8JS, United Kingdom

Tickets can be purchased here:  http://bit.ly/2gM5P0A

Facebook page: http://bit.ly/2husiTC

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The West Midlands Book Signing Pin-Up Calendar 2017

#charity #pinup #calendar for #telford #booksigning

The Perfect Christmas Present for Any Book Lover!

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Some of the authors attending The West Midlands Valentines Book Signing on February 4th 2017 in Telford, have come together to pose with their books and bare a little stocking top.

None of these women are models, neither are they particularly self-confident, but they have pushed their own body issues to the side and cracked on, all…

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Zombies at Christmas

Smelly Biting People

Mummy and Daddy were in such a rush that they didnt stop at the toy shop or even McDonalds. It was so unfair! Theyd been shopping all day long for cards and presents and wrapping paper for everybody except me. I would have been glad they stopped but all the people got really mean and grumpy not just my Mummy and Daddy but everybody else too. They were all scared of the smelly biting people. I cant remember what the grown ups called them, but thats what they were.

We saw one the day before and I thought it was totally wicked cool. He was dressed up as Father Christmas but Daddy said he wasnt the real Father Christmas and he had a fight with a man and he bit him and made him bleed and then a policeman came and he bit him too and the policeman had a fight with the biting man and the policeman won because he hit the biting man on the head with his big truncheon stick and he knocked him out. Mummy was scared but I think Daddy thought it was cool too and he said Its just a random nutter. They can turn up anywhere. And later on he said Its just a coinsedents when he saw on the news that some other people were doing it too and Its not worth cancelling the Christmas shopping trip for.

So we all had to go into town and it was all boring until someone said theyd seen another smelly biting person and this time it wasnt just one random nutter it was loads of them. Theyre coming! I heard somebody shout and thats when Mummy and Daddy started walking really fast and grabbing my hand and nearly dragging me along. I tried to get them to slow down when we went past the Disney shop I said You promised we could buy toys and have burgers and Mummy said I know and Im sorry but we have to get away from here as fast as we can.

Mummy and Daddy were being really mean and made me keep going for ages. I started to cry and it wasnt just me cos all around us grown ups were crying and screaming too. And then a lady suddenly shouted Oh my God! Theyre here!

Mummy always told me off whenever I said Oh my God! but she never said anything to that lady. Daddy just picked me up instead of holding my hand and started running as fast as he could and when I looked over his shoulder I could see all the smelly biting people behind us. Suddenly Daddy stopped and said something even worse than Oh my God!  Thats when I turned around and could see that they werent just behind us they were in front as well.

 

Getting Into the Spirit

A few years ago, everyone was going on about the Mayan calendar and the end of days. He didn’t have time for it then, and he didn’t have time for it now. There were presents to buy, the dreaded visit from his parents to endure, and the office party coming up, where he’d finally make his move on Emma.

Anyway, these things always happened somewhere else, and were never as bad as Sky News said they would be. He remembered them making out that Foot and Mouth was the end of the world, then 9/11, 3/11 and 7/7, avian flu, swine flu and SARS. But the last time he’d checked there were still cows, pigs, birds and terrorists, and people got ill and got better, just like before. Nothing ever changed, not really. Until a routine Christmas shopping trip was disrupted first by panic buyers, and then by a legion of the undead preying upon them.

He stood and watched, frozen in shock and fear. Just a few yards away, a young mother fought to rescue her toddler from the zombies, only to find herself being dragged to the ground and torn apart by gnashing jaws. He made no move to help her; what could he do? And besides, standing motionless and open-mouthed seemed to be a good way of avoiding the zombies’ attention. They were leaving him alone, but everybody who screamed or tried to run suffered the same fate, turned into human turkeys by sheer weight of numbers and becoming Christmas dinner for the dead.

He tried to get away quickly, but the wintry ice made the ground too slippery to run. He lurched and stumbled along, seeing his reflection in a shop window and realising he looked just like the zombies. Hmm… that might work. He held his arms out in front of him and continued with his unsteady shuffling steps, adding a mournful groan for good measure. The zombies just ignored him as he staggered past, away from the carnage and towards his home. It was working! The relief flooded through him and a broad smile began to spread across his face, but he quickly suppressed it. Zombies don’t smile, even at the most wonderful time of the year.

At his ultra-slow walking pace it took him an hour to get home, and all around him he saw men, women and children overpowered, ripped open and eaten alive. He wanted to cry, scream, and run for his life, but he couldn’t do any of these things. So he met every sight, sound and smell with the same blank and vacant expression, a sick parody of a poker face, until he arrived at his front door.

He took his keys out of his jacket pocket, but the jangling noise alerted the zombies around him. There were plenty of them, and they all turned to him. Was that just hunger in their eyes, or was it…yes, it was suspicion! Of course. Zombies don’t use keys. So he just held them in front of him and stared at them as if he didn’t know what they were, before dropping them to the ground and trudging onwards. He’d have to keep up the pretence for a while longer.

He was very good at it. He managed to keep up his shambling walk and slack-jawed stare all day long, and then all through the next day, and then he lost track of time altogether. All he knew was the cold, and then the numbness, and then the hunger, but his poker face belied none of these things. He was a method actor, a secret agent, the perfect imitation of the undead. Nobody could tell him apart from the real thing.

Until one day it seemed that someone did. A woman who lingered too long in an alleyway and got herself surrounded. He was the first to reach her, and thought he saw relief in her eyes, as if he was there to rescue her. But he was still in character, and couldn’t drop the act now, so instead he clawed at her with eager fingers. The first swipe removed her heavy coat; the second shredded her flimsy blouse, and a soft breast came spilling out. He became briefly aware of some other desire he used to have, but he couldn’t afford to give himself away now. So his next touch was to pin her down and sink his teeth into her throat. He continued gnawing away until the screaming stopped, because on some level, deep down inside, it made him feel uncomfortable. But once she went quiet, he was able to enjoy the rest of his feed and slurp eagerly on her delicious blood.

That was the first time he’d eaten or drank in days, and it revitalised him so much that he had to make a conscious effort not to look happy. He was full of strength and energy now, and could walk with the zombies for as long as it took, forever if he needed to. He was that deep undercover.

He had a name once, but he could no longer remember it. He didn’t need it anymore; there was nobody left to use it. Maybe he was the last man alive. Maybe he was mankind’s last hope. Or maybe he’d already died from malnutrition, exhaustion or exposure and turned into that which he thought he was pretending to be. He preferred to think he was getting into the spirit of the season. A season that would never end.

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