Stagecoach To Somewhere – Xmas Horror – Mr Iron

I am dead although I have been slow to notice.  This I find embarrassing.   Normally, I am alert.  I have to be in my kind of business.  I suppose I was too busy being indignant to realise.  I am lying on a trolley and not wearing a stitch.

I actually spent the first few moments of my death complaining about the state of the NHS.

‘Not exactly the opening ceremony of the Olympics is it?’ I shouted.  ‘No pretty nurses jumping up and down on the beds in this place.’

Of course, no one heard me.  I am dead.  I am in a room which I initially thought might be a ward or an operating theatre but it is something different.  There are no other beds, and the equipment has been placed on the waist high shelf that lines all the walls.   A tall man in a long white coat is busy working by the shelf against the wall opposite me.  He sings something about a broken heart.

I have no idea why I am here.  Nothing connects me to this death.  Before this I was in the living room of Croft the Case and happily knocking hell out of him.  I remember banging his head against the wall and his blood spilling on to the carpet.  The screams were terrible and there was a lot of blood but, fortunately, Croft the Case is not especially house-proud.  I was at his home because I had a tip that Croft the Case had done a £30,000 dope deal and had stashed away the cash.  I make my living by robbing these guys. I keep away from the mega dealers because I am sensible but everyone knows me.  I have acquired the name Mr Iron.  My weaponry is varied but I always have an iron.  Few dealers can be persuaded easily to part with their cash.  I do not mind smacking people around but it takes time and you need to mix it otherwise you and the work become boring.  And nothing succeeds as well as the iron.  Most cough up the cash after one patch of blister.  Some have taken as many as three but those are not right in the head.  Few confess in response to the mere threat.  I usually have to show that I am sincere.  Well, Liverpool is a tough town.

I must have been ambushed.  I remember putting the iron on the back of Croft the Case and him screaming and me thinking it would all be sorted in a couple of minutes.  And then I am lying on a trolley without even a goose pimple for company.

It is different being dead.  Obviously, you are obliged to be quiet.   That makes sense, I suppose.  Otherwise, what is the point, eh?  But dead, you feel different.  I have this strong sense of smell, which means that I now feel that maybe my choice in aftershave was not quite as cute as I thought.  Well, as ol’ blue eyes said, we all have a few regrets.

Everything feels cold.  The plastic sheet under my naked skin feels like it has just come out of the freezer.  Also, while I can make no sound, the noise around me is deafening.  At the end of the room the guy in the white coat is quietly arranging instruments but he makes as much din as someone demolishing a house.

The guy in the white coat turns around and walks over to me.  He looks into my face.  He has a red beard and blue eyes.  He looks a serious sort.   He holds a marker pen, and I watch him draw a line around my forehead.  I also feel his hands touch my head a couple of times which is when I realise he has already shaven my head.

I do not think I am especially vain or easily embarrassed but I think I would have preferred to keep my hair before the bonfire that waits.

If you have to go early, at least go handsome, I think.

And what was he doing with the damn marker on my head?

A woman who is also wearing a white coat walks into the room.  She is about the same age as the man.  Both are in their thirties, I think.  The woman is attractive with a fine figure, and I remember the aftershave and I think about regrets again.  She puts her arms around the man with the red beard.

‘Missed me?’ she says.

‘Am I hot for you?’ says the man with the red beard.

The two of them kiss passionately.

Oh, come on, I think.

Whether the woman is insatiable or not I do not know but, after they finish kissing, she looks at what I have between the tops of my thighs.

‘It’s a strange colour,’ she says.

This is news to me.  I sneak a look.  Yes, she is right.

‘Disfiguration, they used a lot of poison,’ says the man with the red beard.

Now I remember.  I was taking out my iron and definitely feeling queasy.  I can brush things aside easily and had put it down to anticipation and excitement. The cold rubber on the trolley helps me think it through.  I must have been set up by Torpedo Torino and Croft the Case.  This is why Torpedo wanted me to drink so much while he was explaining the dope deal.

I remember and I can see clearly.   That helps because there is something else I realise.  I have been dead before.  Something slipped into gear as I was searching for the truth about Torpedo and the Case.  Every time it is the same after dying, every time you eventually realise that this has happened before.   I understand that I have a few days before I move on, by when I will have again forgotten all this.  I try to remember how many times I have died before.  My memories are vague, as if I am not privy to details, but I do know that I have previously died many times.  And I know that I always have a few days of this strange state before life begins again.

It must be the same for everyone.  I think what I have probably thought many times before.  Why the need to exist in this odd period when it feels strange and you smell and hear things differently?  Presumably, the reincarnated life takes time to prepare.  It is not as if it is the latest technology that they use.  All this will have been designed and introduced before digitalisation.

The man in the white coat walks towards me.  He carries a small blade in his right hand.  He uses the index finger on his left hand to find the mark he has left on my head.

I am trying to think everything through but the damned woman has now joined him, and they are looking at one another like lovesick dopes.

The man with the red beard kisses the attractive woman on the tip of her nose.

Reincarnation must be as old as sex, I think.  It has existed from the very beginning, long before Steve Jobs, football and even vinyl.

The man puts the cold blade on my chest and turns his back on me so he can kiss his girlfriend.  How many human beings and in how many different lives, I think.  We even had reincarnation and sex before the wheel although some of those lives would have hardly been worth repeating.

The man and the woman stop kissing.  I think about how soon will I become bored in this strange state and before life begins again.

The man picks up the blade and inserts it in my stomach.  The pain is unbearable.  I watch blood leave my stomach.  The woman returns to the shelf on the opposite wall and takes the largest tool on the shelf.  She stands close to the trolley and near my head.  She stares at me, and I realise that she is looking at the line that the man in the red beard drew around my head.

I think about reincarnation and all my other forgotten lives and how God must have created it as a blessing.  But that was before we became clever, before machines and, my thoughts hesitating, before autopsies.

‘No,’ I scream.

No one hears.

The woman switches on the chain saw, and the noise is terrible.

‘No,’ I scream, ‘we can still feel pain.’

The man with the red beard puts his hand inside my stomach and pulls at my intestines.

‘I cannot bear this,’ I scream although my words are silent like before.

‘God, please answer,’ I plead.


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Stagecoach to Somewhere – Horror Story – Tattoos

‘Turn around,’ she says.

You do as she says and turn around.

‘How long have you had the tattoo?’

‘What are you talking about?’ you say.

She walks around the bed that you had intended to enter.   She stands behind you and straightens your shoulders.    Her finger touches your shoulder blade.

‘You despicable pig,’ she says.  ‘I hate tattoos.’

‘So do I.  I wouldn’t dream of having a tattoo.’

‘I hate you,’ she says.

In the bathroom, you stand in front of the long mirror on the wall and hold the large shaving mirror behind your back so you can see the tattoo.  There are two words and they say May Williams.  You return to the bedroom and stand by the bed. Your wife is sitting on the bed and holding a pillow to her chest.

‘I don’t understand this.’

‘I do, she says, ‘you’re a despicable pig.’

‘Why would I do this?  I hate tattoos.   Was this your idea?’

‘Don’t be stupid,’ she says and clutches the pillow tighter.  ‘You told me she meant nothing.’

‘She was over thirty years ago.’

‘Her name is written on your back.’

‘This must be a practical joke or something.  I don’t understand.’

‘I’m sleeping in the other room,’ she says.  ‘How many times did you and her?’

‘Half a dozen times, perhaps, I was young and easily flattered.’

She sleeps in the other bedroom.

Throughout the next day, she refuses to speak, so it is a surprise when she comes into the bedroom that night.

‘I want another look,’ she says.

She walks to the side of the bed where she does not sleep and turns the shoulder around so she can see the tattoo.

‘Have you seen this?’ she says.

‘I’m frightened of looking.’

‘There are more tattoos.  They’re on the other shoulder.’

She finds a pair of glasses and reads the new tattoos.

‘It’s a list of dates with numbers at the side.  The dates are in black and the numbers are in red.  Most days have a red number.  The numbers are between 1 and 3.  At the bottom of the list there is a total in red.  Oh, my God.  250, you had a whale of a time, didn’t you?.’

‘I didn’t think it was that many.’

‘I was flattered by her.’

‘250 is a lot of flattery.’

‘I don’t know what’s going on.  I think I’m going crazy.  Maybe we both are.’

Again, she sleeps in the other bedroom.  Neither speaks to the other during the day although she comes into the bedroom and watches you undress.

‘You’ve got another tattoo,’ she says.

‘Surely, you don’t believe I’m putting them there?’

‘This is a drawing.  I presume it is May Williams.’

Your wife sits down on the edge of the bed and makes you sit next to her.  She stares at the tattoo.

‘You said she was not as pretty as me,’ she says.  ‘But she’s beautiful.’

‘Maybe she just looks good in tattoos.’

‘You’re an idiot,’ she says.

She sleeps in the other bedroom again.

The next evening, she climbs into bed but after midnight switches on the bedroom light.  You lay on your side, quiet and harmless, head in the middle of the pillow.

‘There’s a new tattoo,’ she says.  ‘She looks good without clothes.  I’ll say that for May.  So did you, actually.’

She prods the tattoo a couple of times with a finger.

‘Oh, my God,’ she says.  ‘The tattoo has started to move.   It’s like a movie.   I’m watching you and May Williams.  I can’t believe I can watch this.  I thought it would be unbearable.  But it’s just like watching animals.  Isn’t that strange?  I don’t even feel angry.’

The next day, they eat an evening meal together but say little although they do agree the mystery of the tattoos is frightening.   She does not agree that the past can be forgotten, not since she has seen the tattoos and been told the number 250.  You wash the dishes.  All the time you are thinking that the tattoos or whatever is behind them will soon kill you.  Everything is malicious and out of control.

That evening, she switches on the bedroom light from her side of the bed.

‘This tattoo looks dull,’ she says.  ‘You’re only in some restaurant with her.’

She taps the tattoo with her finger and, like the tattoo from the night before that showed you and May naked, this new tattoo proceeds to run like a small movie.  She draws her finger around the faces and the tattoo makes a noise.  She runs a finger from one corner of the tattoo to the other and realises it acts as a volume control.  She bends down and puts her ear to the tattoo.

Afterwards, she says, ‘You told her you loved her.  You said things about me.’

‘I said things I didn’t mean.  You have to.  It wasn’t real.  I was flattered.’

‘I reckon it was an expensive restaurant,’ she says.  ‘I think you’re an absolute pig.’

She cries and leaves the bed.  She throws the things she keeps on the dressing table against the wall.  She makes enough noise for the neighbours to hear.

‘You tell nothing but lies,’ she says.   ‘You’re worse than an animal.’

‘Aren’t you worried about what is happening to me?’

‘No,’ she says.

The next day, she packs two suitcases and leaves.  You are surprised by what she has left, all the shoes and the expensive make up and perfume. That evening, you stand naked in the bathroom with the large shaving mirror behind you.  The tattoos have disappeared from your back.  In the next few weeks, you make enquiries about where she might be and send emails to all her friends.  Like the strange tattoos, she has vanished.

One evening, just before you are ready to climb into the bed, you are curious about whether the tattoos have left any traces on your body.  You walk into the bathroom and stand in front of the large mirror on the wall.  You use the shaving mirror to inspect your back.  There are no scars but there is a new tattoo.  You stand very close to the mirror on the wall.  You read the tattoo.  It is the name of your wife.

Each subsequent day, another tattoo appears.  As before, the tattoos can be made to move and are audible.  This time, though, the tattoos appear everywhere.  Soon, they are all over your body.  They are front and back and reach as far as the neck below your ears and cover the soles of your feet.  Unless examined closely, the tattoos look like a coloured pattern.  Inspected carefully with the mirror, they tell the story of the many years together.  You learn to keep the tattoos covered in public.  Each night, though, you strip until you are naked and watch and listen to the tattoos that completely cover the body.  They only recall what happened with your wife but much of it, you realise, you had forgotten.  You spend so long in front of the long mirror each evening that your back aches and so you buy a chair and move it into the bathroom.  The chair is a little cold because you are always naked but it is comfortable.  You realise this is how you will spend most of what is left of your life, watching and listening to these tattoos that have been crammed across your body.  You will remember the woman you loved and occasionally think about the women you merely wanted.  You realise that regret is inevitable and now beyond concern.  The disappointment, though, is immense.


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