The Atomic Blood-Stained Bus (2014)
Gwen is a bored journalist with a deep fascination for magic and missing people. Garfield is a centuries-old cannibal who travels up and down Britain in a bus, feasting on anyone who gets in his way. Algernon is an ex-god, cursed with immortality but stuck among mortals. And Maryanne? Well, she’s just plain creepy.
Their stories come together after Gwen goes on the hunt for another missing person, only to learn that this man was last seen getting onto an unfamiliar bus. Now Garfield and Algernon are being hunted and secrets begin to pour out as the two reach a compromise about their existence, aided by Britain’s last witches. This is a story about escape, and no matter who you are, we all deserve a second chance.
Billed as sitting somewhere between urban fantasy, light splatterpunk and dark comedy, this genre-busting novella is a “refreshing and original story” and has an “eclectic (and often eccentric) narrative“. But don’t just take the words of reviewers for granted; try it yourself.
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The Atomic Blood-stained Bus has gone by many names over the last few centuries and, indeed, many different appearances. It is said that not a single piece of the original bus actually now remains, (which begs the question, “Is it really the same bus?” but that’s a whole other kettle of ballparks and not really the sort of philosophising that there is time for right now).
The bus’s first outing took place at some point in the late fourteenth century. The exact date is lost to history now, but Garfield Sutton, the driver of the bus for those last seven hundred years, knows that it was a Friday. He sold his house, clipped his two horses to the front of his cart and set off, knives in his belt and a thirst in his heart.
The bus no longer has horses, or indeed a cart; it currently looks not unlike the sort of double decker bus seen all over London. There are, of course, differences. London buses are not prone to leaving bloody tyre marks in their wake. Neither are they usually found declaring their destination THE END OF THE LINE, unless you get on the 72 at Hammersmith on any Tuesday when there’s an unfinished crossword in your bag and a full moon. The Atomic Blood-stained Bus is also known to scream occasionally and from certain angles reminds one of a hovercraft, although no one can ever explain why.
London buses are also a slightly lighter shade of red.
On this particular Saturday evening, the bus was parked down an unlit London alleyway, just around the corner from a pub, a nightclub, a kebab shop and, therefore, swarms of people filled in equal parts with blood and alcohol. It was rather like thousands of other streets up and down the cities of Britain. It was a waiting game on nights like this, as there would always be someone stupid or drunk enough to be fooled by Garfield.
Garfield himself stood on the rear platform of the bus, twirling a jagged knife against his thumb. His calloused fingers were much used to this sort of behaviour and his skin is rarely cut, having grown so thick and crusted over centuries of abuse. Still plump, his hands conceal the true age of their owner. In fact, there was nothing about Garfield Sutton to suggest he was born during the reign of Edward III. Like the machine itself, he was also slightly worn, seemingly stitched together from different eras. However, he looked, to the layman, like a man in his early forties who had experienced difficulties but kept up a good exercise regime.
His messy, self-cut hair was black, and his brown eyes glimmered faintly with a barely perceptible fury. His slender body was draped in a horsehair cloak, indigo jeans poking out from beneath, funeral shoes appeared in turn beneath them. He had had to move with the fashions to some degree – there weren’t nearly enough druids left in the country for him to look normal.
There was a shriek of laughter and a clatter of bins, and Garfield’s attention was drawn to the entrance of the alley. Two young revellers, one male, one female, stumbled into the darkness, giggling and groping. He pushed her up against the wall and Garfield watched with a certain perversion as she allowed his hands to crawl up the inside of the flimsy blouse she was wearing. Their mouths were locked together with such fervour that they might have believed the only oxygen left in the world was inside one another’s mouths. She fiddled with the buttons on his jeans and slid her hand inside them. She whispered something through the kiss and they moved deeper into the alley, closer to the bus.
The man dropped his trousers and the girl lifted her skirt and pulled her tights down a little and there, right in front of Garfield’s focused eyes, they performed that most animal of interactions. The alcohol ensured that their connexion didn’t last long. Only a few moments later, the girl was running her fingers through her hair in a vain attempt to tidy it up, whilst the man was doing up his trousers.
“Come on Dave, we better get back to the club,” she said, her words slurred slightly from too many tequila slammers.
“Nah, come here, come here,” said Dave, pushing her back against the wall, biting and kissing at her neck and cheeks. “Mmm, you’re the best I’ve ever had, baby.” The girl looked suddenly uncomfortable, the first hint of the word “mistake” beginning to form in her brain. Dave put a hand up her skirt, fingers fumbling as they tried to pull her tights down again.
“Once more, I’m not done,” he said. “Let me do it again.”
“No, not here.”
“Come back to mine then, come on,” said Dave, squeezing her arm a little tighter.
“Get off me Dave, I’ve got to go back inside,” she seemed to sober up slightly.
“No, come on, stay with me,” Dave spat like a drunken cobra.
Perhaps she seemed almost resigned to it and didn’t say anything to stop him, maybe even squeaked a noise of acceptance, or maybe it was all in his own head. Garfield wasn’t sure and even she would ever be able to say if she did or not. Dave grabbed a handful of her thick dark hair in his fist and pushed her head against the wall behind them. Carried away by his lust, he was more forceful than he intended. Garfield could instantly smell the fresh blood that began to trickle out into this dark, horrendous night. He did nothing as Dave’s grip only became tighter and Garfield wondered if he planned on taking the girl a second time, there and then. The girl’s breathing had become shallow and fearful. Just before Dave could even make an attempt, Garfield spoke.
“Fancy entry to an exclusive club?” he said, softly. The girl screamed. Dave swore loudly and spun round, his jeans still unbuttoned and sagging around his hips.
“Piss off, old man,” he snorted. “She’s mine, alright?”
“I’m not interested in her. I said, do you want to come into an exclusive club? Lots of other girls there, not nearly enough guys for them all. I’m sure you could find fresh … prey in there.”
Dave contemplated the words, the young woman’s hair still wound around his tightly-clenched fist. Garfield pushed open the back door of the bus, filling the alley with the thud-thud-thud of the modern music that he hated so much, and red, white and orange bursts of flashing light.
“The club is on a bus?” he said, incredulous.
“The club is on a bus,” repeated Garfield.
Dave sorted out his jeans and put himself away, eager eyed, losing interest in the whimpering girl instantaneously and dropping her like a used tissue. She fell to her knees and then scrabbled back up onto her stilettos.
He stepped up onto the platform. Garfield didn’t move aside even an inch. Dave had to slide right up against him to pass, a filthy hunger in his eyes. Once he was inside, Garfield closed the door and locked it, sealing the fate of the stupid man who couldn’t control his simple brain.