8: Red light

Time moved differently when Jack was drunk. Not necessarily faster or slower, just a warped delirium that whistled through his head. So it was when Jack barged into the Montpelier Road block and lurched through the rabbit warren of cardboard walled microflats, a hundred different radios bleating their tenant’s tastes, trying to find the stairs. He didn’t know if he passed out or not, clinging to a bannister for support, before he snapped back into the moment, purpose replacing nausea. He was there to stop Jeremy, save the girl. Save himself.

He stumbled down the basement steps, following his sozzled nose, scrambling through pitch black before the red glow of a doorframe marked Jeremy’s flat. He took a deep breath. All or nothing. So what if he was going to crash in on young lovers bonding on a Brighton night? He was mad as hell, a dead girl told him to do it.

The door gave in easy, Jack didn’t have to put that much of his lightweight into it, but the crash unbalanced him and he fell forwards onto a plastic wrapped floor. Clear polythene sheets lined every surface of the flat, lit by the hellspawn tint of a red lightbulb that flew fiery shadows through their creases. The place was one big polytunnel.

The staccato hum of a stereo matched his heartbeat, not music, just a steady electro thud. He heard a muffled scream and lurched towards the sound, flinging aside sheet after sheet where doors and walls should’ve been. Then he found her.

Jenny was pinned naked to a dirty mattress on the floor, hands and feet bound to rings through the boards. Her pale skin gleamed bright pink under the crimson light, mouth gagged and writhing in frustration. Jack almost breathed a sigh of relief. At least she didn’t look like she wanted to be there, maybe he was doing the right thing after all.

“It’s okay, I’m a friend of Jill’s,” he said, tearing at the knots around her wrists and ankles.

Freed, she ripped away the dirty rag covering her mouth, and spat out a white pool ball with a gasp. He pulled her to her feet, forgoing any chivalrous pause to cover her nudity in favour of getting the hell out of there. Her body was like rubber, she fell down and vomited onto the sheet, expelling whatever drugs Jeremy had laced her with.

Jack pulled her up again. “Come on, keep moving, you’re getting out of here now.”

Mind over matter, determination woke her body up. “Damn right I am,” said Jenny through a mouthful of drool, heaving herself across Jack’s shoulder, but powering her legs herself. Suddenly, she screamed and Jack spun them both round to follow her wide eyed gaze.

Standing in the parted sheet he had torn aside to reach her was Brutus. Except Brutus was six foot tall and holding a mallet. “Two for the price of one,” said Brutus.

Jack froze in disbelief, before a blink opened his eyes to the true nature of the sight. Jeremy had Jill’s dead dog’s head perched on top of his own, the unlucky pooch’s hide flowing down his back in hippie tresses. Time again blurred. It was probably only a second before he reacted, but Jack could feel his roots bleach white in front of the dogmanthing.

“Run,” he screamed to Jenny, throwing himself full tilt at Brutus before he could swing his hammer.


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