Berserk vol 1 by Kentaro Miura
This is the larger version omnibus edition that I will be talking about here.
There was one word that I kept coming back to whilst reading this- cool.
To be clear this is the first manga I’ve gotten into and it took me a while to get to grips with the way it’s meant to be read but once I did I flew through it. Dialogue is minimal which is no bad thing, after all it gave me more time to appreciate the artwork.
Simply put this is a dark fantasy in a medieval European setting. Our main character is travelling swordsman with a rather large sword and a prosthetic arm which turns into a kind of grenade launcher (I know- cool). He’s a one man mercenary band who takes on jobs, but that doesn’t mean he’s the hero of the piece. Put the word anti in there in block capitals.
His travelling companion is a fairy/elf who acts as his conscience, much to his annoyance.
We are sort of dropped into the middle of the narrative and other characters that he encounters already know of his reputation, it’s not until the end of this tome that we start to read of his back story which will leave you wanting to get started on volume two asap.
Some of the art is genuinely creepy and I’m not just exaggerating, some of the creatures and body horror in this book is crazy.
Obviously the omnibus edition is a touch more expensive than the individual volumes but the larger format of the omnibus allows you to really study that art.
I’ve already got volume two on my bedside table ready to start…
‘Alright you flecks of smegma, you know the score! Private Semen 54, What is the score?!’
‘To knock this bitch up, Sergeant Semen, sir!’
‘You’re God damn right, jism. Listen up boys, the suction chute will be operational any minute now. We jump in and make our way along the dick tube. Now, Brain HQ have been issuing reports to the Generals in the ball sack and it’s transpired that our host, Jimmy boy, has been listening to propaganda perpetrated by the liberal media and his feminist girlfriend. His mind has been infiltrated by things called ‘ideas’. Ideas like pro-choice!’
‘Boo is fucking right. Therefore we believe that we are going to encounter some resistance in the form of a condom! A fucking sheath! Sheaths are for swords, not dicks! Not only that but we may also engage with enemies in the vagina; hormonal soldiers powered by the pill, a weapon of the Antichrist.
‘This girlfriend of Jimmy’s- poor, weak, yellow bellied Jimmy- is trying to turn his balls into little raisins- little, fruity raisins. Well not on our watch. We’re going to make sure his balls clang together like conkers when he walks down the street!’
‘Here we go men. Get ready to jump!’
Suddenly the scrotum hatch opened up and sucked all the air from the testicular chamber that held the sperm battalion.
‘Alright you dregs of spunk, FORWARD!’
As one they leapt and were drawn upwards. Hundreds of thousands (more!) of sperm were shot through the urethra and out of the penis, slamming up against the rubber wall.
‘ATTACK! Private Semen 2276, where the hell do you think you’re going? No fucking retreat!’
Semen bombs and bullets tore into the condom.
‘It’s not working, sir, it’s too strong!’
‘I don’t want to hear that talk jism, keep at it!’
‘That’s it men, through the breach. Move, move, move!’
Once through the tear the ejaculant army found themselves in a dark, stinking cavern with no hormones in sight.
‘Ugh, what is this place, Sarge? And what is that God awful smell?’
The sergeant sniffed the air.
‘Holy fucking smegma. It’s a code fucking brown! Jimmy you bastard. Back to base men! Back into the helmet!’
‘Jimmy has fucked us twice over. This isn’t the vagina. It’s the asshole! He’s turned sodomite!’
‘Sarge, it’s retracting!’
And so it was. The penis was leaving and so was their only means of escape.
‘Jimmy you dirty fuc-’
‘Ahhhhh. Oh shit, will you look at that. The rubber burst again. Lucky we did it anal tonight, eh Tara?’
‘Are you really surprised, Jimmy? That’s the third this week.’
Come on Taz, do you really think they’d sell faulty condoms so girls get pregnant?’
‘Jimmy, what’s the brand’s name?’
‘And what’s the company’s motto?’
Jimmy wasn’t too sure so he picked up the empty packet from the bedside table.
‘It says ‘Should Work, Have Faith.’’
Tara gave Jimmy a knowing look and went through to the bathroom.
The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French
If Ninth House was the best fantasy book I’ve read in a few years then this is a very close second.
This is going to be an uber fantasy/geeky recommendation so there, that’s your warning .
Finally, orcs have been redeemed, well half orcs anyway. They are the last defence for the human world against the full blooded barbaric orcs that threaten the Lot Lands which is heavily inspired by medieval Spain.
These half orcs ride warhogs and their culture is influenced by Sons of Anarchy and biker gangs in general.
Like always I’m keeping this spoiler free so won’t go into anymore detail as it will destroy the rich world that has been created.
Fresh takes on elves, centaurs and halflings. The author is an avid table top gamer (his Twitter page is worth a follow) and you can see the world building of a D&D player in these pages.
Tolkien it ain’t and thank fuck for that.
The two men had given up running five miles ago.
The battle had not gone their way.
Boyd’s Hill was littered with the bodies of their kin. Their blood would now be mixing with the morning dew.
They weren’t running from the enemy, The Stewarts of Darnley, but from their own folk. As the battle raged they could see that the skirmish was not going their way and as they witnessed, from the outskirts of the melee, their chief being pulled from his war horse to be hacked to pieces they had made up their minds. They fled, their cowardice had surely been noticed by their own and there would be repercussions.
The Clan, that tight knit family unit. As Boyds themselves they were second cousins of the now dead chief. The Boyd Clan sucked in many other septs around them and offered them protection and status that went along with belonging to the family. Loyalty was paramount. The deserters had been found wanting.
There was no plan as of yet but to reach the coast. From there? Who knew? Perhaps Ireland to find employ as gallowglasses, the elite mercenary force that served the Irish nobility. Perhaps France where they could serve the French King himself in the much lauded Scots Guard.
Donald Boyd was the first to spy the sea. In fact, even from this distance, he could just feel the last remnants of the fine sea spray, as it drifted inland, on his face. He clapped his brother, Callum, on the shoulder and pointed. They shared a smile with each other and headed for the coast.
As they stepped onto the beach, their heavy footfalls sinking into the wet sand, darkness began to fall.
The roaring of the sea swell thundered in their ears.
Donald and Callum looked for somewhere to shelter for the night.
‘Over there Donald,’ shouted Callum, gesturing to a cave further up the coast line.
Once they had reached the cave they threw down their heavy weapons and sunk to the rocky floor. It was cold and wet but if their kin were still chasing them then this should hopefully give them some sanctuary from which to escape the eyes of their scouts.
‘We will get a fire started and roast that rabbit you killed earlier. Then we can get our heads down and on the ‘morrow we shall make our plans,’ Donald said. As the oldest he had always been in charge.
Callum nodded in agreement and went off inland to search for dry wood. As he collected branches and sticks he had the eerie feeling that he was being watched. In the dying light he scanned the surrounding area. He could hardly see and told himself that he was just being paranoid. Lack of sleep and food will do that to a man, he reasoned.
The rabbit, their first meal in two days, was succulent and juicy.
Their hunger satiated they lay down to get some well needed rest. Their weapons clutched tightly to their chests. If they were to be snuck upon they at least wanted a fighting chance.
The clicking and scurrying sounds woke Callum first.
The dying embers of the fire still lit the cave bright enough for him to see stunted shadows thrown against the rock wall. The owners of these shadows he could not see. As a child his mother had often regaled him and Donald with tales of bogles, goblins, mischievous faeries and wirry-cows. Spirits sent to perplex the minds of men and cause harm. As a grown man he had used these tales himself to frighten the children of the clan but in no way believed them anymore.
Now he was wondering if he had been foolish to forget, after all where did these stories come from? Surely there had to be an origin, some basis in fact.
Perhaps, he thought, the shadows are just the flickering of the light, a natural phenomenon caused by the death rattle of the fire.
Then the noises began again.
‘Donald!’ he hissed, ‘wake up, someone is here!’
Being on the run had made Donald a light sleeper and so he was up with his sword drawn instantaneously. His shaggy hair and beard giving him a wild look.
The clicking and scurrying continued, broken every so often by a high pitched giggle. The shadows still danced. Both men had their swords drawn. Both were unnerved. An enemy with a sword was easy to fight, but you cannot fight shadows.
‘Show yourselves!’ Donald shouted, his voice echoing around the cave.
All noises ceased, all shadows disappeared.
For a few moments silence reigned and then Callum let out a long held breath. He crossed himself.
Donald looked at his brother with a hint of distaste. He held a loathing for the Holy men who came to spread their religious doctrine and keep the people down with their tall tales. As far as he was concerned their only purpose was to stop men from reaching their full potential.
‘What is going on in here?’ Callum asked no one in particular.
Donald looked at him, opened his mouth to speak and then stopped abruptly. A short sword made of sharpened stoned had punctured his back and the blade now protruded from his chest. Blood cascaded down his chin and he collapsed in a lifeless heap.
An impish child looked down on his body. Hair wild, eyes maniacal, teeth sharpened to points. He wore a sheepskin jerkin and loincloth. On his dirty face he wore a smirk.
‘DONALD!’ Callum cried out in anguish.
He rose his sword, ready to charge, then he felt a tremendous thump on his head…darkness.
As he came to, his vision going from blurry to clear, he could see a huge fire raging. Surrounding the fire were more of the imps. All dressed similar and all just as wild as his brother’s killer.
Callum couldn’t see or hear the sea from here. They must have dragged him further into the cave.
His entire body was trussed up in rope. He couldn’t move.
The devil spawn were dancing around the fire, moaning and clicking. The clicking sound was being made by their tongues. This, he realised, was how they communicated with each other. They all seemed to be carrying clubs made from bones.
Around the walls of the cave, in little alcoves, sat human skulls, adorning the abode in a macabre beauty.
Over the fire something was being turned on a spit. At first he thought it was just a large hog but on closer inspection he made out a beard and long singed hair.
It was Donald.
The spit had been pushed through his anus and protruded from his mouth. He had heard fighting men who had fought in the Holy Land and in the Land of the Turk tell tales of how they had seen their comrades impaled in such a way. To see it for himself, in this cave, made him believe that he had woken up in Hell itself.
Callum let out a blood curdling scream.
The imp children all turned around and looked at him, then they began to cackle and make their way over to him.
‘Grandchildren, what have you brought me this time?’ asked a disembodied voice.
The children turned around and parted as an old man made his way into the light.
His white beard was unkempt, he had a few straggly strands of hair on his bald pate. His teeth were rotten. He wore a kilt and jerkin which, if clean, would have befitted a chief. His fingernails were all an inch long.
The children began to chant.
‘Meat, meat, meat!’
He smiled, showing his black stubby teeth.
‘Well, let us not keep our guest waiting, he looks mighty hungry!’ he chortled.
Callum began to wretch. They wanted him to eat his own brother.
‘Who are you?’ he asked through his tears.
The old man just looked at him. The crackling from the fire was the only noise. The sweet aroma of his brother’s cooking flesh filled Callum’s nostrils. God he was hungry.
Finally the stranger spoke.
‘Who am I? You know who I am. My name has been on the lips of many a frightened person for decades. My hospitality is legendary. The meals I feed my guests are known locally to be of the highest quality, the Devil himself could not prepare such a fine banquet,’ his smile could not hide the cruel, sarcastic mummer’s farce that he was currently playing out.
He raised his arms in a Christ like fashion.
‘I am the Bean.’
The imps began to chant again.
‘Bean, Bean, Bean!’
The old man laughed.
‘Ah’m tellin ye doc, thur eftir eys.’
‘OK, Mr Logan. Let’s start again. Who, exactly, do you think are after you?’
‘The fuckin government. Scuse ma Francais likes, but thuv goat eys a bit spooked ye ken.’
‘And why would the government be out to get you?’
‘Fir ma powers.’
‘Ma powers doc. Ye ken whit a mean man, dinnae gie eys it.’
‘Mr Logan could you elaborate on what these powers actually enable you to do?’
Awright, a’ll pley along ken. Ye ken yirsel how many times am in here, aw the illnesses uv hud; the HIV then aids, baw cancer, prick cancer, pneumonia, arse cancer, lymes disease, rabies, ebola. Then thur wis the time wi the plague. And look at eys! Ah’m fightin fit. Cured masel. Ma boady hus magical healin powers. They boys in Holyrood or fuckin Westminster or wherever ken aw aboot me obviously. Must’ve hacked intae yir computer systems. Now they want whit ah’v goat. Thur gonnae use ma boady tae make super soldiers.’
By this time Dr Summers had his head in his hands. He pulled them down his face in exasperation.
‘Mr Logan, we’ve been over this many times. You. Did. Not. Have. Any. Of. These. Illnesses.’ He clapped his hands at every full stop in the sentence.
‘How kin ye say that Doc? Ye seen eys. Ah wis at death’s door!’
‘No. No you were not. You just convinced yourself that you were.’ Here he began to list the diseases that Mr Logan had previously mentioned. ‘HIV/aids- a three week long cold. Testicular cancer- a build up of calcium. Penile cancer- Thrush. Pneumonia- problems brought on by your continual smoking. Rectum cancer- haemorrhoids. Lymes disease- flu. Rabies- anger issues. Ebola- nothing more than an extreme case of diarrhoea. And the plague- hives brought on by stressing over non existent maladies. You, Mr Logan, suffer from nothing more than a heightened state of paranoia and hypochondria.’
Mr Logan stared aghast at Dr Summers, a man he used to trust.
‘Aw, ah see how it is. They’ve goat tae ye. Yer workin fir them! Thur’s proababaly camras roond here an aw! Where ur they?’
Mr Logan upended his chair and began to empty the bookshelves of their contents in his quest for spy cams and listening devices.
‘Mr Logan! Please!’
Logan ceased his display of carnage.
‘That’s it. Um getting oot eh here. Dinnae yous try an stoap eys!’
Agents Grey and Gray were sitting in their black SUV (windows tinted, obviously) when Mr Logan came crashing through the doors of the doctors surgery and sprinted away down the street.
‘OK,’ Grey said to Gray, ‘Follow him. When he gets to his flat, we take him. That man’s body is now property of the Great British Government.’
‘Roger that,’ Gray said to Grey as he slipped the SUV into drive and followed their target.
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Not even finished this one yet but I don’t need to read the final page to know this is the best book I’ve read in a really long time
Dark, urban fantasy for the Ivy League
The main character is a hard as nails woman but with vulnerabilities. Yeah, I could say it’s like Buffy but that’d be laziness on my part. I could say it’s a grown up Harry Potter but that’d be extreme laziness on my part. It’s something new. Better, in my opinion.
It’s got ghosts, secret societies, magic and a murder.
What more do you want??
Donald MacBean leaned against the tree, his rifle settled in the crook of his arm. He spotted a few of his comrades hiding in the foliage to his right. He knew there was more elsewhere, waiting for the battle to commence.
General Mackay had ordered Donald and the others to take up position in the woods to the side of what would become the battlefield.
Donald and his companions were selected for their accuracy with a rifle. They were to terrorise the enemy’s flank with well timed volleys of musket fire. Hopefully one of their shots would find the body of Devil’s Apprentice himself- John Graham of Claverhouse. Bluidy Cleavers. Cleaverhouse.
Amongst his friends and allies, John Graham was affectionately known as Bonnie Dundee, a champion of the House of Stuart. But to his enemies it was a different matter entirely.
The Covenanting communities that Dundee had persecuted told tales of a man- if a man he truly be- laying waste to their Godly homes. A demon who spoke in Hellish tongues. A being who was in league with the Devil himself and who held conferences with the Evil One in his fiery domain.
Wherever General Hugh Mackay led his government troops, tales of Claverhouse met them. Bloody, harrowing tales. Even some redcoats who had escaped Dundee’s clutches told stories of a being swathed in shadows with a goblin familiar by his side, riding a stunted hell spawn pony. This goblin confidante was said to carry a battle standard made from the flayed skins of Claverhouses’s enemies. The men who followed were supposedly half human half beast; horses, bears, wolves.
These redcoats even went so far as to bastardise the name Claverhouse to Cleaverhouse.
General Mackay, to his credit, gave no credence to these ‘flights of fancy’ as he called them, for he knew the man.
Bluidy Clavers and the General had been brothers-in-arms in the Scots Brigade when fighting on behalf of the Dutch Republic.
‘What a shame,’ the General had said, ‘that a man of John Graham’s talent should find himself on the wrong side.’
A man. That’s what Mackay thought, nay knew, Dundee to be.
Donald MacBean wished he had the General’s constitution, but Donald was a superstitious sort, along with many of his comrades, and he couldn’t help but believe the rumours.
Behind the General’s back some of the men took it upon themselves to melt down goods made from silver; buttons, rings, items stolen from villagers or looted from corpses, and fashioned them into bullets.
Lead could kill a man, but was Claverhouse really a man like the General assured them? Why take the chance? A silver bullet would ensure death either way.
Donald was rubbing his hands together trying to generate some warmth when the warpipes began to blare and the muddy ground beneath his feet trembled with the pounding of horse’s hooves.
The government forces replied with their drums.
The early morning mist obscured Donald’s view of the armies thundering clash until the ferocity of the battle dispelled the fog.
The redcoats were being beaten back. Some of the sharpshooters with Donald let go their first volley. Screams answered their well placed shots.
However, it was not enough to turn the tide of battle. The plug bayonet that was supposed to increase the firepower of the rank and file riflemen wasn’t working to its full potential and they were being mowed down by the Highland Charge.
Surveying the battlefield, Donald could see no werebears/wolves. No centaurs. No demons. Granted some highlanders were adorned with fur jerkins to stave off the morning chill and horsemen charged ferociously but no dark forces were at play, just better tactics.
And then Donald MacBean saw him.
A man in black raiment. A hunchback servant riding beside him. The hunchback carried a standard that should have been a deep red but due to weathering had faded to pink in places, giving it the appearance of skin.
The government forces began to retreat.
Claverhouse had won.
But he was just a man.
Donald lifted his rifle. Aimed. Fired.
The smoke from the shot hung heavy before him, stinging his eyes, a metallic taste on his tongue. He waved his hand to clear his vision, trying to determine if his shot had been true.
‘The Dundee is down! They’ve murdered our General!’ the hunchback shrieked. ‘There. In the trees!’ he called, pointing in Donald’s direction.
It took a few moments for the shock to leave Donald (‘Have I really killed the legendary Bonnie Dundee?’ he thought) and to realise it was time to retreat along with his comrades.
He dropped the rifle and began to race through the trees behind him towards the gorge and the river he knew to be there.
He could hear the shouts and heavy thudding of his pursuer’s boots.
Branches cut his face and snaggeds on his clothes but still he ploughed on.
‘He’s there! Someone shoot him!’
A bullet thunked into a tree in front of Donald but still he continued on his course.
By now the deafening roar of the River Garry drowned out the oaths and curses of his would be murderers.
There. The river.
So close. Not far.
Another bullet whizzed past his ear.
He reached the gorge.
Rabid Rabbit creeps the cut-throat countryside,
engaging everyday enemies.
Pink and blue fur.
Teeth, terrible teeth.
One eye blinded, the other red.
Claws concealed ready to kill.
Driven mad by man,
With hair dyes,
Drips in the eyes,
Toxic nail varnish,
and toothpaste manufactured to eradicate tarnish.
Rabid Rabbit remembers…
Today was the day.
Today he was going to fulfil a dream.
Since he was fourteen and discovered the movies online he’d yearned to be involved in the industry.
Today he would take his place on the Casting Couch and hopefully fuck a hot debutante to seal the deal.
Porn was Tommy Roberts’ passion.
Passion is perhaps too respectable a word. Obsession. Addiction. These words are probably more appropriate.
He was introduced to pornography by his best friend. Tommy’s mate had arrived at school one Monday morning with tales of how his older cousin had booted up the new internet they’d had installed and got right down to searching for the forbidden fruit, inviting Jimmy (Tommy’s friend) to share the experience.
For four whole hours they were shut away in his room, salivating over the buxom hot MILFs being manipulated into all kinds of sexual positions by the pool boy, plumber, buider and a variety of other tradesmen. The movies always ended with a cum shot, either over the face or breasts.
It was ‘FUCKIN’ AWESOME!’ Jimmy proclaimed.
Needless to say Tommy had to get back home and sample that biblical fruit for himself.
Tommy had to agree with Jimmy as he finished watching his first three and a half minute clip.
The buffering was a nightmare though and it seemed like every five minutes his mother was using the phone. How many times did she need to talk to her bitch friends?
Over the years he looked at porn daily and with the advent of broadband and smartphones he could watch it anywhere unhindered without his alcohol guzzling mother making calls and interrupting his rhythm.
After a while, though, he found that big breasted bored housewives being fucked by their son’s best friend just stopped cutting it.
He moved on to other kinks to slake his sexual thirst.
He even gave shemales a whirl. He decided he liked a bit of everything.
Like a fine wine expert he became a connoisseur of all things pornographic.
He would hold court with his peers in the pub, giving them a scene by scene breakdown of the latest videos and boasting about how he would try any new positions with the next girl he pulled. To be honest though, he hoped to snare his older landlady. After all, if porn had taught him anything it was that widows were gagging on it.
Tommy’s friends thought he was just messing around, pulling their legs and playing up to this mildly amusing, perverted character that he’d created for himself. But it was an addiction, simply put. And like many addicts, Tommy did not think he had a problem at all.
Tommy never went to University but he’d discovered that the abundance of often drunk female students who had come to the city to study a plethora of subjects were easy targets for his sleazy attentions. It was during one weekend while he was trying out some new moves and chat up lines that his uncontrollable addiction got him into some very nasty trouble.
Tommy was at the bar chatting up a seriously sexy blonde Australian student. He had bet his friends that he could snare any girl in the pub that night so they settled on her. A modern day Helen of Troy.
His innuendos and, quite frankly, cheesy chat up lines seemed to be working.
He learned that she came from Melbourne, Carlton, to be exact. She was here to study Scottish History and Gaelic. Her ancestors had come from St Kilda apparently, which naturally meant that she supported the St Kilda Aussie Rules team. Her name was Stacey.
She had just excused herself to go to the ladies room when a man who’d been appraising the situation from the opposite end of the bar approached Tommy.
He was unassuming and wore a pink shirt under a navy blazer paired with jeans and converse trainers. Hair blonde and short but waxed to give it some volume. Round rimmed spectacles sat high on his nose. No other unique features except that he spoke with a soft English accent.
‘That is some game I just witnessed,’ he said to Tommy as he motioned to the bartender to pour him another sloe gin and lemonade.
Tommy looked him over. Was this guy some queer who was trying it on with him? he thought to himself. Not that he had any problem with the LGBTQ community what with his own dalliances in the past.
‘Eh, thanks bud,’ he replied warily.
‘Get you one?’ the stranger asked.
Again Tommy wondered what this was all about but he wasn’t going to pass up on a free drink.
‘Sure, Tennants please man.’
‘Tennants as well please,’ Unassuming Man said to the bartender.
Tommy kept a good eye on the drink all the way until the glass was securely in his hand to make sure that nothing was dropped in without his noticing it. A bit harsh on the boy but he’d just read a book on Jeffrey Dahmer and he wasn’t taking any chances.
Tommy’s new acquaintance lifted his glass in salute and said, ‘Cheers.’
Tommy returned the sentiment and took a long gulp.
‘Let me get straight to the point,’ the stranger said. ‘My name is Richard Jones, I work for Adult Entertainment Casting and my firm are always on the lookout for new talent.’
‘You talkin aboot the films, Sean Connery an aw that likes?’ Tommy interjected.
‘Well in a manner. We make adult entertainment movies and you fit the bill perfectly for the type of chap that we need to star in one of our productions. Good looking, young, fit, confident with women. The confidence that you just showed in pulling that young doris was pretty impressive. So…what’s your name friend?’
‘So, Tommy, are you interested?’
Interested? Fucking interested? Tommy couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing. He was being invited to actually be a part of his infatuation and not an observer through a computer screen.
‘Absolutely, am interested. You just tell me when and where and ah will be there!’
Richard smiled again, he did so with just a hint of slyness but Tommy failed to register it as his elation consumed him.
He swallowed the rest of his drink in one pull and handed Tommy a pink business card with black lettering.
‘Be at this address tomorrow at, shall we say, eleven a.m.? There will be a small Q and A and then after that we will get you on the infamous Casting Couch.’ He shook Tommy’s hand and as he started to walk away he said,’Good luck with that piece you’ve been laying all that groundwork with tonight but try not to tire yourself out, you don’t want to embarrass yourself first day on the job.’
Nae chance of that mate, Tommy thought, ah can go all fucking night.
Stacey was promptly ejected from his flat a few hours before Tommy’s pending meeting with his destiny.
She’d been like the Taz, cartoon devil, in bed.
After they’d swapped numbers and promises of a repeat performance she left and Tommy got down to the business of making himself look presentable.
He did fifty press ups then fifty pull ups on a bar that crossed his bedroom door. He shaved, gave his pubic hair a trim and showered vigourously. Talced, brushed his teeth and gelled his jet black hair. Attired himself in a crisp white shirt, jeans and a pair of polished brown brogues. A fitted black knee length coat completed the look.
He was ready.
He arrived at the address on Hanover Street a full thirty minutes early. He could already feel the tug at his crotch as his mind went in to overdrive at the day’s possibilities.
Tommy buzzed the intercom at the side of the large, black door that would lead to the day’s events. A few seconds later a crackle emitted from the speaker and woman’s voice came through.
‘Eh, yeah, hi. Ah got this cerd the other night likes from some gadge called Richard-‘
‘Oh you must be Tommy, Richard said you would be coming today. A bit early aren’t you, cant’t wait to get started I suppose?’ the female intercom laughed.
Tommy chuckled along nervously.
‘Yeah you could say that.’
‘Not to worry darling I’ll buzz you up.’
The intercom went dead, a buzz sounded and the door unlocked.
Tommy pushed it open the rest of the way and began to ascend the stairs in front of him to his imagined sexual paradise.
As he got to the top of the staircase the door before him was fully ajar. He walked through and found himself in a sparse reception area. A big bay window gave a nice view out on to the street below and if he craned his neck far enough he could see the green of the gardens residing in the shadow of the Castle.
A large leather sofa sat against the wall to Tommy’s right and another was placed along the opposite wall. A poorly tended plant found itself in the corner behind the receptionist’s desk. An open laptop sat on the desk and tapping on the keys was the lady from the intercom. The room was painted in a bland beige humus and no paintings or pictures adorned the walls. Intercom lady stood up and approached Tommy with her hand outstretched.
‘Hi, Tommy, my name is Suzy. Welcome to Adult Entertainment Casting.’
Tommy took the offered hand and shook it.
He wondered if Suzy would be the one to join him on the couch today. She was middle aged and had dark brown hair streaked with grey. She held a bit of weight but that only made her breasts more voluptuous. The tight skirt that she wore made his crotch tingle again.
Yes, she would definiteley do.
‘Richard said that you were perfect for us and he wasn’t wrong. He seldom is, that’s why he’s the best talent scout in the country.’
‘Richard no here then?’ Tommy asked.
‘Unfortunately not, he’s always on the move. I’ll be doing the preliminary interview and then the shoot. You’ll be working with Natalya today. She’s one of our very best. Shall we?’
She motioned to a door that Tommy had overlooked in his initial assessment of the room. It seemed to blend into the rest of the surrounding wall and only when you stared at it from a certain angle could you make out its contours.
It was like something from that David Bowie film, Labyrinth, he thought.
He followed Suzy through the door, silently disappointed that she wouldn’t be the one he would be filming with, but as the old saying goes, beggars cannot be choosers.
The room they entered was even barer but this one was painted a bright red.
The Casting Couch was against the wall directly in front of him. A small table sat to its right with a jug of ice water and a glass taking up most of the area on top.
A camera was set up on a tripod facing the sofa and beside it sat a swivel chair.
Even with the red paint it wasn’t a warm room. It felt figuratively cold.
For the first time since Tommy had accepted Richard’s invitation he felt the stirrings of apprehension.
Fuck that, he thought, get a grip of yourself. You are an Adonis and you are about to fuck a goddess, shake the nerves and lets get down to business.
‘Take a seat on the couch hon while I get this camera set up,’ Suzy said.
He sat down, the leather of the sofa squeaking beneath him. After a few clicks a flashing red light appeared on the camera.
Suzy took her position on the chair beside it.
‘That’s the camera rolling darling. So how this will work is that I will ask you a few questions, well more than a few, some will be quite personal but try to answer them all. After the questions is the part you’ve been waiting for. You and Natalya will do three positions and then finish with a blowjob. Now it’s imperative that you come during the blowjob. Male porn stars are required to come when needed, not when they feel like it. So, no pressure!’ She laughed. As she did so she crossed her legs. In the split second it took one leg to fold over the other Tommy got a view of the sheer black g-string she was wearing.
He began to harden.
Nae pressure except for in ma fucking boxers darlin, he thought.
‘I’ll gie it ma best shot,’ he replied and threw her a wink for good measure.
‘OK, lets begin.’
The questions started off easily enough.
Name, age, blah-blah-blah.
Then she started to ask why he wanted to get into porn.
His preferences; older women, black women, oriental women, transexuals?
Would he be willing to have gay sex?
Had he ever had gay sex?
He had to admit to the camera that he had. During one of his threesomes he had taken it from the other male involved. It had been alright actually. He would try anything once.
The questions continued, with a general theme of what he would or would not be willing to do.
He said yes to every scenario she enquired about.
Finally Suzy brought the interview part to an end.
‘Excellent Tommy, just excellent. I think we have all that we need. So now the fun part. Why don’t you get undressed and I’ll go and see if Natalya has arrived yet. By the way, I’d drink some water if I were you. As you can see there are no windows in here to open and the room is built with sound insulation so the more respectable members of the city don’t complain. It can get quite hot and we don’t want you passing out from dehydration. OK, I’ll leave you to get comfortable. Back in a minute.’
She left through the well concealed door and Tommy started to remove his clothes.
He folded them neatly and placed them in the corner. He poured himself some water and sat back down.
The leather of the felt cool against his naked skin.
He swallowed down the water in one gulp. The iciness coursing its way down his throat, he could feel it in his chest.
He was just starting to wonder where Suzy had got to when the dizziness hit. His head began to feel too heavy for his neck to hold up and he had to rest his chin on his breast. His vision doubled and he slumped onto his side. He lost consciousness.
The camera was still rolling.
Tommy woke up in the same red room, strapped to the type of gurney that Death Row inmates find themselves tied to prior to receiving their lethal dose; his arms were splayed out, giving him the look of Jesus if he’d been crucified lying down.
The furniture had all been removed. The only item that remained from before was the constantly recording camera. New items had appeared in place of the absent pieces. Items that chilled him to the bone.
The room was now entirely covered in plastic sheeting. The bright lights that now shone in the room bounced off the plastic and hurt his eyes. It was almost migraine inducing.
His naked flesh was covered in goosebumps.
He strained at the straps in a blind panic.
What the fuck was going on?
Fear made him breathe harder and his heart race. The only parts of his anatomy that he could move were his fingers, toes and head.
The panic quickly engulfed and overwhelmed him.
As Tommy began to hyperventilate the door that led to the reception area opened and in walked Suzy followed by Richard. No Natalya.
Both wore white crime scene coveralls with the hoods pulled up. Dust masks hung from their necks and latex gloves covered their hands. Both also had green wellington boots on.
It finally struck him that the water must have been drugged. He strained harder. He wanted to call to them and ask what was happening but the words were getting caught in his throat.
Suzy began arranging the tools in a particular order as Richard strode over to the gurney.
‘Hi, Tommy. Sorry old chap but I lied to you. I don’t work for Adult Entertainment Casting, in fact, there is no such company. We’re hired by some very wealthy people with a penchant for watching people be subjected to horrific torture. Now I want you to know that this is nothing personal it’s just that this human butchery pays an amount of money that is just impossible to refuse. The bonds are securely tied so you won’t escape. This is the end Tommy. You will die here today and with the insulation we have in here no one is going to hear you scream but us.’
Suzy let out a shrill laugh and winked at Tommy in a grotesque mimic of the wink that he had given her earlier in the day.
‘You ready, Su?’ Richard asked his colleague.
‘Quite,’ she replied, as she walked towards Tommy with pliers in hand.
Richard grabbed Tommy’s right thumb.
‘This will hurt, Tommy. Now today’s client dearly loves to hear people like you scream and I will oblige him. Now smile for the cameras!’
As his thumbnail was pulled from the root there was a second of utter silence. Then he screamed. And screamed.
Three hundred miles away stood a country mansion surrounded by green fields and luscious trees. In its finely maintained garden stood well manicured hedges and stone statues in the likeness of Greek Gods and Goddesses. There was an Apollo, Hermes, Zeus, Athena, Hades and Dionysus.
The front entrance was guarded by grand Doric columns.
Inside the mansion and up its grand staircase was a study lined with bookshelves full of leather bound books. An antique globe stood waiting to be turned by the deity like figure who sat at the polished oak desk looking at his computer screen.
The live feed that he was watching showed him a brightly lit red room covered in plastic. Two white phantoms were just beginning to remove a young man’s fingernails. As the first scream emitted from the speakers he felt himself become erect. He rubbed himself through his tweed trousers.
The screaming continued as a knock came at the study door. He didn’t even consider turning the volume down.
‘Enter,’ he said in a voice as well manicured as his hedges.
A frumpy woman with curlers still in her hair entered.
‘Darling, that’s the press been on the phone again, they are wondering when you intend to make your first televised appearance as the new Prime Minister, and what in God’s name are you watching?’ she enquired as the screams poured out into the room.
‘Oh I’m just getting caught up on The Walking Dead. You know it’s a guilty pleasure of mine,’ he said jovially.
‘Really, a man in your position should be watching and filling his mind with far more intellectually stimulating things than that drivel. Turn it off at once and start preparing yourself for your first address to the nation.’
‘I’ve only got ten more minutes, my love, and then I promise you I will make a start on the speech.’
The new Prime Minister’s wife left the room tutting.
The screen now depicted one of the phantoms lowering a live chainsaw toward the restricted man’s left foot. As the blade chewed into the flesh and another blood curdling scream erupted, a spurt of bright red blood splashed the camera lens.
The Prime Minister smiled and continued to massage himself under the table.
The Fifth Ward: First Watch by Dale Lucas
What we have here is a buddy cop story taking place in a fantasy city and it works really, really well.
Like any buddy cop story it starts with two people who have nothing in common becoming firm friends a la Lethal Weapon.
The city the story is set in is called Yenara and for me it reminded me off the Five Points in Gangs of New York. The story itself is pretty noir and wouldn’t be out of place in an Ellroy or Rankin novel and just like these two authors use the setting of their stories (LA and Edinburgh respectively) as a character so does the author, Dale Lucas, do so here.
The story also touches on social issues in the city and comments on certain animosities between the races- human, elf, orc, dwarf- that exist and the causes of these enmities.
This is the first in a series and I will definitely be checking out the next instalments.
Give it a shot.