Monday, 1 February 2010
SKINS By James Hilton
Mickey Clegg spat the chewed remnants of the pen from his mouth and stabbed a tattooed finger at the front of the convenience store. “Das the place...”
The six shaven heads clustered around him turned as one. Malice shimmered in each pair of eyes. All were dressed in like attire; tight jeans worn high over Doc Martin boots…green bomber jackets and red braces over white tee shirts. Skinheads had been in and out of vogue since he’d been a little kid but Clegg had only recently collected a motley crew of his own. He’d first caught the bug watching American prison dramas. While most reviled the exploits of the Aryans, he was entranced; something about the pride…the power…the purity. It was a small step away from the British skinhead ethos. He’d soon found others with the same mindset.
Now it was time to show those rag-heads just what Britain was all about. Just what kept Britain - Great.
Clegg’s second in command Doug Stamford, stepped up. “What we gonna do?”
“Just what we talked about last night…”
“What if there’s a load of the sand-niggers in the back?”
“Das no problem,” Clegg produced his Stanley knife from his back pocket. The small triangular blade reflected the orange glare from the street light under which they congregated.
“Why the hell did someone build a shop way out here anyway?” asked Wilcox. The industrial estate was on the outermost edge of town.
A scar the shape of an inverted smile decorated his chin, the product of an encounter with a broken beer bottle a couple of years earlier.
“You know how it is; if they see an empty corner they build a shop on it.”
The gang laughed at Clegg’s wit.
Wilcox pointed at the red letters over the shop window, “What kinda name is Patsasmin?”
“Dunno, it’s not English so what does it matter?”
No one argued the point.
“Benny, you go and have a look. I want to know how many’re getting the treatment tonight.”
Benny nodded with enthusiasm as he pulled on a woollen hat to cover his baldness. He crossed the road with a cocky swagger.
The brightly lit shop front was framed on both sides by corrugated sheet fencing. The building was a breezeblock affair with empty plots either side. Tattered posters advertising events at the O2 Arena decorated the fencing. A large colour promo for the Cirque de Macabre show was almost pornographic. Beneath a nearly naked model was emblazoned the legend ‘Introducing Gemma Nye-Panthera – Mistress of the Dark’. Clegg pursed his lips, “I know what I’d like to introduce to her.”
Less than a minute later Benny emerged from the store clutching a chocolate bar and gave the thumbs up. He trotted over to the gang.
“So?” asked Clegg. He flicked the blade in and out of the carpet knife.
“Just one woman. No cameras. Easy.”
Clegg’s face distorted with his cruel approximation of a smile. “How old?”
“Nice job Benny-boy,” Clegg started towards the shop. “You ever shagged a bit of brown?”
Benny was young looking for his seventeen years and was yet to score a hit with any girl regardless of colour. “Nah man, I tend to stick to blondes.”
The gang laughed and Benny tried not to blush.
“Is your right hand blonde then, Benny-boy?”
“Get lost Wilcox,” was all he could manage in way of a comeback.
The gang was still laughing as they barged into the grocery store. The last man in and the gang’s newest member, John Lee, flicked the sign on the door from open to closed. The door closed with a clatter. His chrome necklace glinted in the harsh fluorescent light. The words ‘Mark 5.9’ carved into the metal meant nothing to the gang but Lee held them dear.
The woman behind the counter regarded the gang with calm detachment. Her features were perfect to the point of being unsettling. Her large brown eyes flicked from each man in the group but her expression never wavered.
Clegg walked up to the counter. He spoke in an overly exaggerated polite voice, “May I please speak to the proprietor of this prestigious establishment?”
Lee sniggered, “Prestigious pile of shit if you ask me.”
The woman replied in equally perfect English, “I am she, and you may.”
Lee and Wilcox moved deeper into the shop and began turning a chrome stand containing self help and fitness DVD’s. The cases inevitably showed a before and after picture of the celebrity endorsing the fitness program. On all of the before poses, the ‘celeb’ was overweight and dressed in dowdy clothes. Their faces looked like someone had just swapped their Chablis for a measure of cat’s piss. In the after pose they had miraculously lost two thirds of their body mass, gained a full perfect tan, a whiter than white smile and visited the trendiest spandex shop in London. Lee picked up a box titled The Cinch and smiled approvingly of the leather clad model on the cover. Exercise routines for the bondage crowd?
Wilcox checked out the fire door at the rear of the store but it was padlocked from the inside; so much for health and safety.
Clegg glanced over his shoulder as he raised his voice. “Well I need to know how much it will cost…”
The woman tilted her head slightly.
Clegg repeated his question.
“How much what will cost?” her voice was tinged with the faintest of accents.
“How much to shag you up the arse?”
The gang erupted into laughter and whoops of encouragement.
The woman looked bored and waved a hand towards the door. “You should leave now.”
Wilcox pushed his hand behind a row of bottles and sent them crashing to the floor. The odour of ketchup, vinegar and soy sauce filled the air. “Oops!”
Another burst of laughter.
“You can put that on my tab,”
The woman fixed Clegg with a stare. She ignored the crashing of her merchandise and resulting smashing of bottles. Benny stuffed a dozen assorted chocolate bars into his pockets. Wilcox snatched at the magazines from the top shelf. “Hey, skin-mags…” the rest of the gang missed his half-baked pun.
Clegg grabbed at the woman and hauled her around the counter. He tried to throw her to the floor but somehow she glided with him like a dancer and remained on her feet. He released his grip and snatched his knife from his pocket. “It’s time to teach you some respect.”
The gang stalked closer to watch Clegg in action. They all knew that women were terrified of having their faces disfigured. Even the threat of a lifelong scar could command obedience.
“Well now Lady Patsasmin, what say I cut one of those stupid Indian dots into your forehead, eh?”
“Why would you? I am not Indian.” The calmness of her tone was really starting to grate on Clegg’s mind. How could she be so blasé about this?
“Indian, paki, wogger, it’s all the same.” The surrounding men nodded and leered at the shopkeeper.
“I was born Abyssinian.”
“Like I’m bothered,”
“My people were the rulers of the known world while yours were still living in caves.”
“Don’t you read your bible?”
“Bullshit!” Clegg pushed the blade to within a fraction of an inch from her left eye. Then without warning he slashed down at the buttons and fabric of her blouse. A couple of severe tugs and the woman was left naked from the waist up.
“Now that’s more like it,” yelled Wilcox.
The gang shuffled closer. They all understood that Clegg would go first, but she looked fresh enough to last the whole train.
The woman ignored both his groping hand on her breast and the knife which hovered again near her eyes. “When we vanquished an enemy it was our custom to take their head and display it as a war trophy.”
Clegg sliced the razor sharp blade into her perfect cheekbone. “You’ll be giving head today not taking any,”
The woman cupped her hand over the laceration. Within seconds dark crimson fluid had filled her palm. Now the calm facade dropped from her face. Clegg scowled in triumph, at last, now the fun could really start.
The woman swept her hand behind her and the blood splattered across the front of the sales counter.
Wilcox stepped back, pointing, “What the fu…”
The blood had spelled out her name as it sloshed against the laminated surface. PATSASMIN…in crimson.
Clegg stepped back as well. His mind struggled to comprehend the situation.
The woman smiled, her wound gaping.
The men shuffled back, all thoughts of pillage forgotten. The dormant survival instinct that lies in every man ignited in each of the skinheads’ psyche.
Benny yelped and staggered back, “Look!”
The blood-formed letters were re-arranging themselves into a new formation. The self-animated haemoglobin spelled out her true identity.
Clegg pushed himself back, moving to the door; “Come on.”
The gang slipped and jostled to follow their leader.
“Get out of the way, John.”
But the skinhead was rooted in front of the exit.
“Come on,” shouted Clegg. “It was your idea to come here in the first place. A shit storm is what it is…now get out of the way.”
“You really should read your bible,” said the woman’s voice again.
John was shuddering at the door, his face contorting into something alien.
“What the fuck is happening?” screamed Wilcox. Benny clutched at his friend’s sleeves.
The thing that was Patsasmin now convulsed in time with the man at the door. “And Jesus demanded, ‘What is your name?’…and he replied – My name is Legion: for we are many!”
“What…what?” yelled Clegg as the two shape-shifted into their more bestial-selves.
Benny pointed repeatedly at their former gang member. “John Lee…Lee John…Legion…”
“Let he who have understanding…” she nodded to the boy.
“Get the fuck out my way.” Clegg rushed at Lee, slashing with the blade. Deep wounds opened on Lee’s face but no blood issued forth. Scaled reptilian hide sought escape from the fragile outer covering of human skin that the betrayer wore. Lee’s shuddering and pulsating grew in intensity.
The skinheads sought escape by the back door but the lock held fast.
The woman that had been Patsasmin had shed her skin and long tatters of flesh now hung like rags on a disaster victim. Two lurching steps forward and she had Clegg’s head in her elongated fingers. The soft skin under his chin proved no barrier for the creature’s questing talons. Clegg emitted one ear piercing scream before his face and most of his bald scalp was ripped away. Clegg fell to the ground, pink bubbles frothing from the gaping hole where his mouth used to be.
Patsasmin waggled the sack of skin like a bizarre glove puppet, two misshapen fingers jutting through the eye sockets. “Now there’s a face only a mother could love!”
The second being that had masqueraded as John Lee now dominated the doorway in the form of an unimaginable fusion of reptile-bird-man. It now rasped the same word over and over with a tongue that was no longer suited to human speech. “Legion-legion-legion-legion…”
The last seven minutes of life shared by the Manchester Aryan Brotherhood were filled by screams, the rending of flesh and the frenzied consumption of hearts, brains and genitals by the two entities of the Legion.
The two abominations walked out into the night, re-sheathed in human guise. “You were right. That was fun.”
Legion nodded to his sometimes female companion, “Your turn.”
Patsasmin shook her head vigorously and assumed the persona and outer shell of a sixteen year old girl. “There’s a housing estate just half a mile over that hill.” A leather-bound clipboard appeared in her hand. “Excuse me sir, would you like to save some money on your utility bills?”
Legion laughed as he assumed a fresh-faced and slightly over confident visage to match Patsasmin’s. “Here, I brought travel snacks,”
She took the two eyeballs and dropped then into her mouth.
Legion smiled again at his superior, then spat out the remains of a tattooed finger. “I’ll bet you five souls that I get invited in before you do.”
Jim Hilton is a writer of horror, crime, thrillers and dark fiction. He has had work showcased at Pulp Metal Magazine, Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers and has up-coming work at House Of Horror Magazine, and is currently working on his first novel - a crime thriller.
Go to http://www.jimhilton.co.uk/ to sample more of his short stories.