It was bumper to bumper in The Square Mile, and all Lieutenant Carl Haywood could see from the rear seat of the black cab were tributaries of red brake lights stretching off ahead. He would give the London traffic another twenty minutes to start flowing again before he opted to join the end of the day office workers on the pavement. He settled in and pressed play on YouTube, finding Zen in watching cute cat footage on his mobile phone.
His phone vibrated and the video of a kitten trying to jump into an empty tissue box was replaced by the flashing name of his friend and subordinate, Sergeant Dave Kowalski. He cringed and hissed an inhale expecting a lecture on tardiness. Carl thumbed the green phone symbol to answer.
The background noise from the patriotic chanting and bar-room chatter gargled from the speaker before Dave spoke, ‘Hey, LT, where the hell are yer? The team’s all here.’
‘Typical SNAFU, man.’ Carl looked beyond the cabbie’s head. ‘I’m in a cab but traffic is backed up in all direction up to Bank station looks like and before you start hollerin’ for me to take the Tube, all lines are compromised with some unscheduled works.’
‘Brother, you were supposed to be here an hour and four pints ago.’ The irritation in his friend’s voice came through the ear speaker. ‘The game starts in ten and you’re gonna miss the kick-off.’
‘I’ll get there to see the Cowboys’ first touchdown.’ Even Carl doubted his own words, and pulled his fatigued bomber jacket close over his Cowboys t-shirt unconsciously. ‘Just make sure you have a cold brewski waiting for… da hell?’ Carl winced and yanked the phone from his ear, the speaker screeching. ‘Dave? Sergeant, can you hear me?’
The high pitch squealing continued. He hung up and pressed redial only to be welcomed by the irritating noise. Troubled, he tapped the divider. ‘What’s the chances in getting to Covent Garden in the next ten minutes?’
The cabbie cursed under his breath.
‘Hey, this is an…’ Carl began but lost his voice when he followed the cabbie’s stare past the western forecourt of the Royal Exchange to the intersection.
An obsidian sphere was growing and expanding at its centre, it absorbed the cars that were stuck at the crossroad. One driver managed to pull himself from his European compact, desperation twisting his face. He reached in, but had to retreat when the dark phenomenon assimilated both car and the female passenger’s hand that was outstretched from inside.
The orb slowed and then halted its growth to four storeys tall and wide, pronged in by London’s granite and glass heritage structures. The people who had been running or cowering were drawn in by curiosity. Mobile phone screens illuminated to record or stream the event. The ball cast no reflection, and its unfathomable depths stared back.
Its perfect surface rippled and undulated, stepping from the ball’s membrane, an almost human shape stood over 6 feet tall. It wore wicked carapace armour with thorns and spikes. The bestial head crowned in horns regarded the watchers with an amber gaze; an elongated jaw with no lips exposed its jagged teeth into a grim reaper’s grin. The copper skinned creature’s arms and legs were wrapped in muscles that a staff sergeant would envy, and its fingers ended in curved ivory talons. The orb’s surface rippled again and more alien terrors exited, varied in their appearance. One had charred skin and snapping pincers instead of hands, its human eyes pivoted on stalks protruding from its eye sockets, another had an elongated centipede body, and its upper torso was a woman whose elfin beauty was despair. The nightmare procession went on; their numbers swelled to fill the crossing.
The bystanders, who had stayed to ogle, fled in a chaotic rush. The monster force roared in a single battle cry. Fanning out, these creatures fell upon them in ravenous appetite, slashing, biting, and ripping. They crashed into foyers and shop fronts setting upon those inside who sought protection. Chaos splashed the streets to mix into a bloody tide.
A shaggy black beast with walrus tusks protruding from its lower jaw grabbed a woman in stilettos and Gucci business attire. It lifted her aloft and tore her in two, sating itself in her sanguine juices.
Carl’s driver spewed up on his worn blue slacks, the horror reaching his bladder next. ‘Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.’
Like a call, the tusk monster zeroed in to Carl’s taxi, locking its pupilless eyes upon the cabbie. It beamed its primal hunger, dropping the woman’s remains; it hurtled towards the black cab on thick gorilla like limbs.
The lieutenant’s fighting instinct yelled and Carl reached for his .45 but instead felt leather belt, his sidearm left behind at the embassy. The beast charged, its head striking the windscreen, the car trembled and the front window spider-webbed. It continued its attack until the glass buckled and a hole formed.
Carl banged on the divider. ‘Get out of there!’
Fear’s infection petrified the cabbie. The beast’s ruddy soaked head thrashed its way in, snapping at the cabbie.
His fog dissipated and the driver raised an arm in an attempt to protect himself. ‘Help me!’
The tusk monster mauled the cabbie’s limb, splitting an artery. Blood spayed over the transparent divider obscuring Carl from the scene.
The lieutenant flung his door open, and swung around to the cabbie’s side. The tusk monster was chewing its way up the driver’s arm while the cabbie screamed and battered at the beast’s head with his free hand.
Carl grabbed the driver’s door, tugging at its handle, but it remained locked. ‘Open the goddamn door!’
The cabbie was too busy with his tusked assailant. Carl braced himself and hammered at the window with his elbow.
The lieutenant’s actions received the monster’s attention; it backhanded him, propelling him across to the car opposite. His lungs deflated. Carl sucked in air and shook off the blow. He returned for another attempt when the cabbie’s cries ended in a wet crunch between the beast’s jaws.
Carl couldn’t stand to bear witness. He had served two tours of Afghanistan and been in too many fire fights to recount but this horrific savagery on the street assaulted his sanity. His military training went into survival auto pilot; he took the opportunity and ran joining the mass flight. He didn’t look back at the cab, guilt painting him the cabbie’s grotesque end.
The escapees snake lined into the narrow concrete valleys between the buildings, demons’ cries chasing after them. The lieutenant managed to get his bearings when he saw over the rooftops to the south, The Monument’s gilded urn in the English grey sky. London Bridge wasn’t far away. It spurred some hope in him to escape the demonic smorgasbord.
Carl and the other survivors streamed into the King William and Cannon St intersection. A black orb was manifesting itself and blocked access to London Bridge. It had swallowed twenty souls and part of The House of Fraser department store’s front facade before it stopped expanding. Instead of a mutant army, a colossus crawled from the portal covered in slick ichor. It straightened its naked obesity to twice the size of the sphere. A creature from myth, the cyclops, turned its one seeing serpentine eye to the shrieking onlookers. Two policemen fought against the panicked current and managed to fire a few shots at the monster. It snatched them up in either hand; putting their upper bodies into its ulcer plagued mouth like treats and gnashed its teeth. Gore exploded and dribbled down its chin.
The fiends from the first portal caught up to the survivors and set about on their second course. Carl stopped, and spied a handful of people making a break for a narrow side street. He elbowed his way through the panicked maelstrom towards the new route. The lieutenant took a second to peek over his shoulder at the carnage; a silver furred werewolf cocked its canine head in his direction, and gave chase.
Carl sped into the alley; hearing the werewolf’s padded strides closing in. The lieutenant imagined its heavy breathing on his neck and chanced a glance behind; hungry golden eyes met his and the beastman catapulted itself at him.
‘Shit!’ Carl skidded and pitched forward into a roll.
The beast sailed over him; its claws brushing across his jacket’s collar, slicing through the material above his shoulders. Carl somersaulted to his feet, veering off into the alley that opened up into a small square. Looming above was the single Portland stone column, The Monument to the Great Fire of London he had spied before.
Carl spun about and the werewolf dug its claws into the bricked road to slow its momentum. It gave the other survivors a passing interest before it shifted its attention to him. It showed off its jagged maw in a devilish smile and padded in his direction.
The lieutenant backed up, the beast too close for him to flee. He searched the ground for some weapon; a bottle, a discarded pint glass, anything for him to use. There was nothing.
He raised his fists and stifled the inevitable doom with last stand bravado. ‘Come on you ugly bastard, I’ve got a Marine Corps beating to serve you.’
A coughing fit passed over the smiling beast. Carl realised it was laughing. It continued to close in when it hesitated, its humour extinguished; canine snout twitching, sniffing the air. A growl rumbled in its throat, its yellow eyes sweeping the rooftops.
A dark and pale blur with a crimson trail flew from the monument’s golden peak striking the werewolf’s chest. It propelled the werebeast backwards into a parked van, crumpling the vehicle’s side like it was made from card. The attacker landed into a crouch between the werebeast and its prey.
Carl blinked twice, the woman stood up from her fantastic aerobatics feat with her back to him. A long burgundy plait intersected the two crossed sheathed swords strapped to her back, its tip ending at her lumber and grip of the holstered hand cannon. A tight black cat-suit defined her athletic contours.
She flashed her turquoise eyes at Carl. ‘Are you okay?’
Her accent…Eastern Europe? he thought. Carl managed a stiff nod. ‘Yes, but where did you come from and how did you…’
The sword maiden cut him off with a silencing glare. She turned her attention to the beast and switched to German. ‘Who summoned you, lapdog of Zakiel?‘
The wolfman extricated itself from the van and lifted its head, a defiant howl its answer. It circled around the warrioress, who matched its movement. The beast halted and grimaced, pawing the road with its razor clawed feet.
A sigh slipped by the sword maiden’s maroon lips. ‘Have it your way.’
The werewolf charged, lowering its left talon to rip the lieutenant’s protector.
‘Move!’ Carl shouted, but the warrioress was already in motion.
A ballerina’s fluidity, the woman in black’s right hand reached for her katana. It sang its singled note sliding from its sheath. She crouched under the beast’s clawed strike and pivoted, arching her weapon, its 24 inch blade blinking through the werewolf’s abdomen to the other side.
The sword maiden twisted to her feet and flicked the monster’s blood from her sword. The werewolf stumbled holding its stomach, a faint red line tracing her katana trail. Humming a pitiful mew, its upper torso tumbled to the ground. Innards and guts splattered the road.
Carl swallowed the dry retch, and watched the lower half shuffled before it tripped on its own upper body to collapse on top of itself. ‘Jesus, who are you?’
‘Delilah,’ she said with a distant tinge. ‘Now hush.’ She held up her hand and scanned the area.
A whooping and hollering trumpeted the air and increased in volume.
‘Damn.’ Delilah unholstered her stainless steel hand cannon and weighed it in her hand. She spun and studied Carl, penetrating into his past. ‘You have been in battle before’–she held out the gun–’take it.’
Carl backed up and took the offering, his ethereal killing mask enveloping him. He felt battle whole and prepared to face this enemy.
‘Make every bullet count.’ She nudged him two spare clips for the hand cannon.
‘If this is going to be our Alamo, what the hell then.’ Carl tucked the ammo clips into his dark jeans and cocked the pistol.
Delilah unsheathed her other sword. She brought her blades up and readied herself for the attack.
Blooded monsters surged into the square from the streets and from the rooves. The monsters frothed for flesh. On clawed feet, hooves, and slithering bodies, they closed in, tightening the ring.
‘Watch out below!’ The shout preceded the loud mechanical clattering. The creatures’ front line fell to little pops peppering their bodies.
A diminutive figure landed next to Carl, pink sub-machine guns blazing in either hand. She shared a likeness to Delilah, but looked sixteen and was dressed in a drab grey school uniform.
‘Took your time, Maddy,’ Delilah sneered.
‘I had homework to finish, sister.’ The schoolgirl raised an eyebrow towards Carl. ‘Who’s the cutey?’
‘Don’t touch, Maddy, he’s the sole survivor from the initial attack,’ Delilah didn’t let her blades pause in their dance. She cleaved an abomination’s goat head in two.
‘No need to worry; I’m not going to taint him.’ Maddy blew a stray auburn strand from her face, and squeezed the triggers spraying more death.
Carl grunted a disbelieving chuckle at the madness. ‘Jesus, a high schooler and a sword wielding dominatrix are saving my life. God has one weird fetish.’
The demonic monstrosities danced a spasm jig to Maddy’s machine gun fire. Delilah dived into the fray, weaving in amongst them, her katanas blending through the devils and parting them from their appendages and life. Carl smacked in a fresh clip, the hand gun bucking after each shot, heads and chests blossoming open. The three were one machine, all a part of the same mincer grounding up the monsters.
Carl discharged the last two spawns and a teetering serenity draped the square. The trio were bloodied, Delilah being the worst. Her face painted in red causing her blue-green eyes to shine.
‘I hate the taste of feral.’ Maddy spat and reloaded her guns. ‘A nice warm bath will…’
A thundering belch interrupted Maddy and the giant cyclops from before demolished its way towards them. It slurped up its last victim’s twitching legs, finishing the morsel with a crunch of bone and moist clops.
The monocular giant set its sight on them and clapped its fist into its palm. ‘You and your human bitch will pay for this outrage,’ it grunted in heavy German.
Carl could only stare at the approaching giant. ‘I hope you girls have a plan for this because I’ve got nothing.’
Delilah spun her blades clean. ‘Maddy, go low on my mark.’
Maddy nodded and made ready for the offensive.
The pair tensed for the fight, when the cyclop’s head disappeared in a meat chunks and skull splinters blast. What was left took a staggering step forward to topple at the square’s edge, the shockwave shattering glass of nearby offices. Its neck uncorked, it decanted the one-eyed colossus’ life fluids onto the cobblestones.
Materialising from the cyclop’s devastating path, a woman with a black leather eye-patch, climbed up on the crumpled giant’s back. Her moonlight white tuxedo didn’t have a speck or stain on it.
The lady in white nodded at her work and threw aside her smoking spent rocket launcher. She tugged a walkie talkie from her jacket and clicked it on. ‘Control, this is Midnight Prime, I found them. Pick up on the corner of Pudding Lane and Monument, Over.’
‘Roger, Midnight Prime. Transport is en route. ETA two minutes, Over,’ came the tinny reply.
She snapped the radio off and picked her path towards the trio.
When she had gotten closer Carl noted the tuxedo lady was a little taller, but shared a resemblance with Delilah. Are they all part of the same family? He glanced over to Maddy who shot him a playful wink.
‘Big sister always spoils the fun. Oh well.’ She shrugged and exhaled. Her mood switched to excitement. ‘Pricilla!’ Maddy skipped over the dead and clamped an embrace around her stiffened elder sibling.
Pricilla patted Maddy’s back in awkward affection. ‘Alright, alright, we’re still on the clock here.’ She squirmed herself from her youngest sister’s hug. ‘There’s been a sighting of at least five more of these titan grades with a horde of ferals heading for Buckingham Palace. We got to move, now.’
Mechanical thrumming beats crested the rooves and an unmarked Black Hawk helicopter came to hover, whipping up a vortex in the small square. Its doors slid open.
Carl scanned the hovering aircraft. ‘Whoa, that’s some serious stealth tech you got there. I should be deaf by…hey!’ The sisters were already heading to a spot under the helicopter; he raced to catch up to them. ‘Wait, can someone tell me what the hell is happening and what are these things?’
Pricilla spun about, and gave Carl a not impressed appraisal from head to boots and back. ‘And you are?’
‘He’s a cold stone shooter!’ Maddy shaped her hands into a gun. ‘Blam, blam, didn’t hesitate.’
Pricilla’s suspicion flicked over Carl and entered his space. ‘That’s a problem. You’ll need to return with us to HQ for a full debrief.’
‘That’s not an option, ma’am.’ Carl’s temper dial was moving up. He didn’t welcome the older sister’s aristocrat attitude. ‘I’m Lieutenant Carl Thomas Haywood with the United States Marine Corps, and I don’t report to you.’
‘Understood, lieutenant, but it’s not a multiple choice.’
‘And if I don’t?’ Carl tightened his grip on Delilah’s gun.
Pricilla drew herself up to him. ‘Do you want me to tell you or show you?’
Delilah stepped in between them. ‘Pricilla, it’s okay. I’ll handle this.’
‘How?’ Carl and Pricilla both snapped.
Delilah answered Pricilla in their native Romanian. ‘There would be no issue with command if he didn’t remember seeing anything.’
A brief battle of wills between the sisters passed. Pricilla conceded and stood aside. She rested her hand on her sister’s shoulder. ‘We’ll do it your way.’
Carl had been watching the exchange and sensed he wasn’t going to like what was going to come next. ‘Something the…’
Delilah hand rose and caressed his cheek forcing him to lose himself in her turquoise depths. ‘What I’m going to do next is for your own safety.’ She took hold of her gun. Carl released it without any resistance.
Her hand was ice but her touch warmed his face. Carl’s breathing sped up. Her full lips were so close; he wanted to lean in closer. ‘What are you going to do?’
‘Stare into my eyes and listen, Lieutenant Carl Thomas Haywood.’
‘You can call me…’
‘You will forget everything before the moment we met until now.’
‘I will?’ Carl’s head felt like it was being filled with cotton balls. ‘I will.’
Delilah took her hand away. Carl’s eyelids drooped; she pushed him up against the monument and sat him at its base. ‘Close your eyes and you will not open them until the helicopter has left.’
‘I will not open them until the helicopter has left,’ he repeated and his eyes shut.
Delilah left him and joined her sisters.
Maddy pouted. ‘That really necessary? He was a bit of fun.’
Pricilla turned on the youngest. ‘Leave it be, Maddy.’
The three leaped into the air and into the helicopter’s cabin. Its engines powered up and took off towards the Royal Palace.
Carl’s mobile phone hummed and vibrated. His eyes flickered open, awoken from the trance. He pulled it out, and saw Dave’s name with ten missed calls from him.
‘Dude, where the hell are you?’ His friend’s voice was wrapped in concern.
‘Looks like I’m at The Monument.’ He paused, a turquoise memory slipping away. Carl glanced around the square. ‘And I’m surrounded by very dead and very ugly monsters.’