The night fog rolled in from the sea, its thick tendrils wrapping around the city until everything was hidden under a grey blanket. Most folks retreated indoors, huddled around warm fires and gathered together in rooms lit bright to ward off the darkness but some hardy souls remained, against all common sense, outside.
In Shamian, Bill Symonds was heading through the narrow guinnels and back-alleys towards the docks looking for work. The fog curled around the cannery, the men and machines inside working noisily through the night; no jobs there, not for him, not for any white fellas now the tong ran it. He walked on by, heading out to where the fishing boats landed. Whatever else he could do, he could always mend nets and ropes for the skippers. In the darkness he heard something hit the ground wetly, “‘Allo?” he called out into the mist, his voice sounding flat and far away. No one replied, just be a cat after scraps he thought and carried on to the wharf. Then another wet slap, and another, and another. Suddenly slap after slap came from behind him, or were they in front of him? He couldn’t tell, they echoed off walls, the alleys playing tricks. “Ey now, stop playing silly bugg…”
Archibald Tome smiled weakly as he climbed the steps of Miss Milneaux’s Poppy Emporium to feed his addiction. If mother ever found out, he thought to himself for the umpteenth time that day, she’d cut my allowance off toot sweet! So even though Belle was known for her discretion and it the Dragon Lands was quite the place for one to remain anonymous, he found himself thanking his lucky stars for the filthy weather. Breathless he reached the top of the final set of stairs and stepped out on to the Emporium’s balcony when there was a wet thud behind him. “Mi… Miss Milneaux?” he stammered, turning around, “Is that yo…”
As James McLaughlin popped out of the library to fill his pipe he was surprised to find that a real pea souper had descended across the city. “Well, what a foul evening Miss Homewood,” he said the librarian as he headed out to the gardens. He made himself comfortable on the bench and tapped his pipe on the metal arm rest. A sudden sound, as if someone had dropped a large book into a puddle, caused him to turn “Hello? Miss Homewo…”
Across the bay, Henry Wilson-Smythe was hurrying through the fog towards home having been kept late at the office. His footsteps echoed eerily across the water, coming back at him with a short delay to sound as if he were being followed. He felt a cold chill down his spine as a sudden splash behind him stopped him in his tracks. All was quiet, only his own breathing breaking the silence until a wet slap followed by another and another started coming towards him through the mist. “I say, anyone ther…”
“Ey now, stop playing silly bugg…” A flash of teeth and Bill’s body fell to the ground, a jet of blood erupting from the stump of neck where, until mere seconds before, his head had been…
“Mi… Miss Milneaux? Is that yo…” Claws slashed through the fog and a fountain of gore shot across the balcony as Archibald’s headless corpse fell backwards…
“Hello? Miss Homewo…” Arms like knotted steel twisted and pulled until, with a wet crack, James McLauglin’s head was torn from his shoulders…
“I say, anyone ther…” A huge, wet paw enveloped Henry’s face, his eyes barely had time to widen in fear before his head was torn from his shoulders and his ruined body crumpled to the floor…
The collecting had begun.
To be continued…
Links to other blogs and stories:
1) All my “Steal Head” posts can be read on my blog here and on the Steelhead Ning here.
2) A “Steal Head” Story So Far recap can be found here.