We won the book trailer contest! To prove it, click here. We’d like to thank everyone who took the time to vote us – we couldn’t have done it without you. We’d also like to thank Ryan Ashcroft of Fireclaw Films for making our fabulous trailer. Anyhoo, we promised you we would post the opening chapter of one of our novels if we won and the people have chosen Bleeding Empire.
We wrote this in November as part of NaNoWriMo and only finished its second draft yesterday. So it’s as raw as an open wound. It follows the offspring of the four horsemen of the Apocalpyse as they set out on their mission to end the world. Death screwed up the numbers and had twins – Morgan and Aeron, Conquest and War combined their DNA to form Marsden, Famine produced ultra-bitch Demi and Death donated his Pestilence to create Mac. Then there’s Drew – a disgraced angel kicked out of Heaven and forced to serve his time on Earth in a shitty pub. Oh and they’re based in Travelodge.
Here it is:
Ash covered the desolate city in smoky kisses. Scarlet electricity pulsed through the clouds’ open veins. Thunder pounded like a desperate heart as night swept down on funereal wings to steal the light, and with it, all hope of redemption.
The ash spiralled faster, the city shaking as a delicate hand picked up the snow globe, running her black nails across its smooth surface. A smile crossed her violet lips then she hurled it. The glass shattered, the city exploding from its spherical prison as Hell arrived on earth.
A black clad figure stood silhouetted on the roof of a car, the alarm wailing like a banshee foretelling a death. But no-one was listening. His hand held the black guitar neck, carved into a snake, its ruby eyes glinting in secret knowledge. The guitar body was a black skull, streaked with his own blood from when he carved it. The soundtrack to the city was silent, like it was waiting for him to hit Play. He raised his head then strummed the guitar. People stopped. He waited then played the note again. They moved forwards, a crowd surrounding the car.
He closed his eyes, took a deep breath then played their pain back to them, resurrecting the hidden desires they concealed from society’s judging eyes. He knew their inner turmoil better than their most intimate journal. His fingers moved faster, his plectrum plucking their nerves and playing them to the beats of their hearts. A fight erupted over some long ago misdemeanour involving a broken lawnmower and missing gnome. Two friends who’d been playfully shoving each other started kissing as the passion they’d been harbouring became too powerful to control. A long married couple began a war of words, their pent up frustrations becoming hollowpoint bullets that gunned down their marriage in the dismal street beneath the scattered ash that fell from the sky.
Raw emotions bled into the night. The figure watched his crowd, bringing the song to a final angry chorus. The married couple traded wounding words. The fighters wrestled on the floor, the attacker delivering one final blow to his friend’s bloodied face. The kissing friends’ clothes lay torn beneath them, bloodied scratches a souvenir on their backs as they lost themselves in ecstasy.
The song died.
The married couple stepped away from each other, swallowing the hurt that still burned inside. The attacker hugged his lifeless friend, his tears streaking through the blood and the damage he’d inflicted. The two friends shared one last lingering kiss then self-consciously dressed in their ripped clothes and went back to playfighting, smothering the fire that danced in their eyes. The rest of the crowd moved away, their gazes lost and empty.
“Marsden De’Ath. The one and only.”
The figure turned. “If you start singing that Chesney Hawkes tune, I’ll use your vocal chords to re-string my guitar.”
A man stood in the shadows. Stubble kissed his cheeks. A silver choker burdened his neck. He smiled, his face illuminating, like a beautiful statue beneath a Museum’s spotlights.
“Drew!” Mars leapt off the car. They hugged then winced as their bodies scorched. They pulled away, their skin healing.
“I was about to file a missing persons’ report for you.”
“I was lying low to avoid the pre-Christmas sales. Shoppers bring me out in a rash.”
“It happened then.” Drew nudged the fallen man with the toe of his boot.
“We all knew it would. It was just a matter of when.” Mars slung his guitar around his back. “There was nothing else pencilled in the diary for today.”
“Are the others here?”
“Somewhere. They’re probably trackable through GPS. Why are you here?”
“You can’t stop it.”
“No. But I can stop you.” They stared at each other, choking on every word they longed to say. “Or at least, try to change your playlist.” Drew grinned and poked Mars’ shoulder, grimacing when his fingertip burned.
“Sorry, I don’t do requests.”
“Yeah I didn’t think you were the Karaoke type.”
“That hurts. You haven’t heard my Gloria Gaynor.”
Drew laughed. “Promise me one thing – once a day you’ll play a happy song. Give them a chance of salvation.”
“I play what’s inside them.”
“Yes but you can control what surfaces.”
Mars wiped ash off Drew’s forehead, leaving behind a charcoal smear and line of blistered skin. “Put it in my suggestions box.”
“You don’t pick up phone messages, you’ll never empty your suggestions box.”
“People thrive on misery. That’s why Jerry Springer was so popular.”
“The world can’t exist on pain alone.”
Demi moved through the packed club, Salvation. The music thrashed a heartbeat against her chest. Girls looked her up and down, their faces contorting as her supermodel frame slipped past them. They adjusted their clothes, holding in their stomachs until she disappeared then bitching behind her back. She climbed the stairs, her movements portraying the grace theirs lacked, her dress shimmering under the pulsating lights.
She moved onto a raised platform and danced. Other girls moved away from her, whispering together, their revealing outfits suddenly feeling too tight. They watched her then caught glimpses of themselves in reflective surfaces and looked away, their bodies which earlier had looked sexy to them, now looked two sizes too big.
Demi smiled down on them, her slim limbs matching the rhythm of the music as she sashayed her body.
“She looks like a skeleton,” one girl murmured to her friend.
“At least I don’t look like I was made with self-raising flour,” Demi retorted. She nodded at the girl. “Get a bigger top. The only place I want to see muffins, is in bakeries.”
The girl fled.
“You bitch!” Her friend tugged Demi’s hair.
Demi backhanded her, knocking her to the floor.
“Touch my hair again and you’ll lose your fingers. Some Romanian girl was paid adequate money to provide me with these extortionate extensions. She’d be devastated to learn you used her hair as a tug toy.” She adjusted her dress then moved to a different spot.
“Nice moves!” A guy approached her. “Fancy practising some with me?”
“The only move I want to do with you, is one that takes your head off your shoulders. Come back to me when you’ve lain off the pies and learned to take a bath.”
His mates whistled and shouted as she strolled to a group of girls who were dancing provocatively, trying to catch the attention of nearby men.
“No wonder they call it belly dancing – your bellies are big enough to dance by themselves.” Demi pushed her way into the centre of their circle and swayed her hips, the lights casting shadows under her sharp cheekbones. “It’s supposed look sensuous, not make them feel nauseous.”
“Skinny bitch,” one girl snapped.
“You say skinny like it’s a bad thing. I could get two of me in your clothes and still have room for that guy you’re eyeing up. He wouldn’t suffocate in my cleavage.”
“Only ‘cos you don’t have any.”
“At least guys want me for my personality – you’re just a pair of talking tits.”
In the corner, Mac watched Demi, his hood concealing most of his face. She caught his eye and smirked then gestured towards the opposite side of the club. He moved away from the wall and passed through the dancers to where a man lurked.
Mac grabbed him and pushed him through the fire exit into the dank alley behind the club. Stale urine, tobacco and the sickly sweet smell of marijuana assaulted his olfactory senses.
“Hey! What are you doing?” The man stumbled but saved himself.
“Putting you out of business.”
“Fuck off.” The man flicked out a knife.
“Sorry pal – a new corporation has moved into the area and we’re closing you down.”
Mac nodded at Mars, who leaned against a black wheelie bin then Mac disappeared into the club. He heard the first chords on Mars’s guitar before the door shut, drowning him out with the beat from the club.
He shoved his gloved hands into his hoody’s pockets and watched the dancers for three minutes. He backed out the fire exit and saw the man sprawled on the wet floor, a gaping wound in his throat, his bloodied knife lying beside him.
Mac rifled through his pockets, taking his mobile, cash and several sachets of pills before returning inside.
“You seen Vinny?” A man asked.
“He’s taken early retirement. What can I get you?”
Mac handed over the pills and took the cash with a handshake. He glanced at Demi, who winked then continued dancing. Mac worked his way through the dancers before getting lost in the throng.
Morgan and Aeron crushed the broken glass they walked over as they headed into the street. Their PVC outfits were almost as identical as they were. They stopped by a car, where a bloodied man lay in the road, his battered face swollen beyond recognition.
“Do you want the honours?” Aeron asked.
“It’ll be my pleasure.”
Morgan crouched beside the man and produced a snow globe from his pocket. She rolled it around her fingers, the glass chinking against her Gothic rings then she gazed into the glass at the tiny graveyard beyond. She shook it, watching ash spiral around the peaceful scene. When the ash settled, a new headstone grew from the ground.
Morgan rose when she heard the beating of wings. She held her arm out to the raven and he hopped onto it. She squeezed the globe until it was the size of a marble then slipped into a black pouch that hung around the raven’s neck.
The raven took flight, a stark contrast to the crimson clouds that hovered above the earth like a blood stained cloth.
Aeron squatted by the gutter and picked up a broken guitar string. He held it out to Morgan.
“Someone’s been busy.”
“As least he’s doing his job and not being distracted by that bad influence.”
Aeron pocketed the string and they walked across the road. An ambulance raced past them, its blue lights turning their pale skin into a sickly death hue. They moved through different streets until they heard the beat from Salvation. Ignoring the club, they slipped into the alley, where a man lay surrounded by his own blood.
“My turn.” Aeron freed a snow globe from the corpse’s coat pocket and tossed it in the air. He caught it, watching the ash rest on a new grave.