Chapters 1-5

                                                                     Strange Days                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Chapter One

        They were taking their time killing her. She could feel her life slowly slipping away as they worked up and down her body with their boots. It would have been embarrassing if it wasn’t so depressing. She was going to die in a back alley on some stupid world all because she’d let her guard down. She thought she was safe here, that they couldn’t travel. Or at least they weren’t able to pass themselves off as human well enough for the transition to be worth making.

        Yet, here she was being kicked to death in a back alley by three of them who looked human enough. Of course they had elected to look like skin heads. The shaved heads favoured by those humans would be easy for them to simulate while the clothes could be used to hide the more obvious bits which wouldn’t blend as well. The Doc Martens - Air Ware she noted as one tried to imprint the sole on her forehead - were ideal for disguising the fact they didn’t really have feet. Nobody would question how ugly they looked, skin heads were ugly to begin with.

        Amazing where your thoughts took you when you were dying. She wondered how much longer it would be before she lost consciousness. She hoped it would be soon as the pain was beginning to become unbearable - she wouldn’t be able to block it out much longer.

        They were being remarkably quiet about it all as well, so the chances of anyone overhearing were almost nil. Part of her realized how odd this was - normally they would have made a great deal of noise, they usually found violence equivalent to sexual release. Somebody had gone to a lot of effort to make sure this was carried out without any witnesses, to ensure their silence. A spell of some kind?

        It didn’t really matter as she was dying no matter what happened. All they had to do was hit a couple more vital organs and she would be done for. Rupture the spleen and she was guaranteed to bleed out - just missed that time bud. If she had the strength she’d have almost been willing to point them in the right direction so her death wouldn’t be so prolonged. Of course they probably wouldn’t listen to her, especially if they thought it would hasten her death. They enjoyed their work and liked to make these things as protracted as possible.

        They were really unpleasant things. In their natural state they were even more repugnant looking, but not by much. Their heads weren’t normally so round, more like oddly shaped pentagons, but which had been inflated so they sat on top of shoulders like heads. Of course they didn’t have nearly as impressive fangs or claws, (the Doc Martens could be covering the claws she supposed) now as they did normally. Something to be grateful for maybe, at least now they couldn’t exercise their favourite pass time of eating their prey alive slowly.

        Still, all in all it was a rather ignoble way to die. She had just popped over to Earth to listen to some music, something she technically wasn’t supposed to do, which meant she didn’t have proper clearance to be here, which in turn meant nobody knew where she was officially so there wasn’t about to be any last second rescue by friends showing up to see what the hell had become of her. Yep, pretty pathetic to by ambushed by a trio of pointy heads in a back alley on Earth. The only thing still niggling in the back of her brain as she began to finally fade away was how did they seem to know in advance she was going to be here when nobody else did?

        As preoccupied as she was by this, what she figured to be her last thought, she barely heard the howl ripping through the alley or her erstwhile killers were being ripped and torn into shreds. As she finally lost conscience she had the strangest vision of a very hairy face with long fangs looming over her with a very human look of concern in its bestial eyes.

The trouble with being basically immortal is how you never forget anything. He’d heard mortals talk about wishing to forget things they’d done, having memories of incidents that still made them wince with embarrassment. Well, if they thought their measly little life spans were a bother he wondered how they’d cope labouring under the weight of centuries worth of mistakes, mishaps, putting your foot in your mouth and all the rest.

Of course what they called memories were like vague recollections compared to what he experienced. At best they might be able to dredge a few spectral images from their past out of the morass they called a brain, while he and his kind were forced to suffer through a full sensory experience. You thought of something and you had the whole package from how the air smelt to what the ground underfoot felt like. All the stuff that you might not even have been aware of the first time around seemed to have no problem making its presence felt ever after.

Even good memories could become a downer after a while, mainly because they reminded you of a better time. Who wants to remember walking hand in hand with a beautiful women under the soft light of the moon in some pastoral paradise when you’re down and out and the only green you see are weeds growing up through concrete?

Of course there in lay the paradox for most of his kind. The easiest way to block out memories was to develop either a serious drinking problem or drug habit. Unfortunately either one of those lifestyle choices usually meant you would inevitably find yourself living in run down neighbourhoods of inner cities surrounded by concrete and filth. The last thing you want to remember when living like that is walking hand in hand with some beautiful...

Fuck, he was repeating himself again. Well, must be good shit, he can’t even keep track of  the babble inside his head. Looking down at the needle still in his vein he decides he really should loosen the tubing before he cuts circulation off. Blissful oblivion was beckoning and he needed to find somewhere he could den up safely before he passed out. Shooting up in alleyways wasn’t his first choice, but sometimes needs must win out.

He didn’t think he’d be able to get far so he settled for pulling the pin and wrapping it in a rag before slipping into his pocket. He tried to be conscientious, he didn’t have to worry about infection, but he could still carry and didn’t want some other schmuck to catch something. Drawing his shabby coat tightly around him  and using the wall for support, he pulled himself deeper into the alley. At least the shadows should give him some shelter from searching eyes.

He didn’t know how long he’d been out, but not long enough, when he was rudely awoken by noise from the mouth of his alley. He was going to try and roll over and find oblivion again when he realized it was the sound of boots connecting to flesh which had roused him. It was the boots plural which succeeded in making him lift his head and sniffing the air to investigate. Normally he couldn’t care less if a couple of fuckwads wanted to beat the crap out of each other - one human more or less at this end of social ladder didn’t make much difference to him.

But the scents coming his way weren’t human. Underneath the smell of blood and sweat was an overlay of something he’d never caught wind of before. That was enough to get him on his feet - curiosity was alway a curse for his kind - and the sight which greeted him was enough to motivate him to change. The three pointy headed ’things’ working over the slim figure on the ground were definitely not from around here, and even more certainly they were methodically intent on killing whoever they were laying into.

Without even thinking about what he was doing, heroin was good for that too, he charged in with fangs out and claws flailing. He tore the head off the first almost before the other two realized he was there. The second had his (its - what were these things - he better not swallow any of them or he had a feeling he’d be puking for hours) throat chewed out as it was turning its head to face the new threat and the third’s heart came out in his claws where they got stuck as he threw it against the one wall of the alley.

Shit, he’d really need to gargle with something after this - those things left a really bad taste in his mouth. While they definitely weren’t from around here neither was the person laid out on the alley floor. She could pass for human to most observers, looked South East Asian and dressed like most of the punk kids these days. Hair spiked into Mohawk, black leather jacket with all sorts of buckles, black jeans and black boots which came up over the ankles, But she sure didn’t smell human.

In fact there was almost nothing about her he could recognize save for the fact she needed immediate medical attention or she was going to die. Couldn’t take her to a hospital. Who knows what they’d discover if they took x-rays. Anyway, he wasn’t about to go marching into a emergency ward stinking of blood and with flesh under his finger nails. That could cause all sorts of awkward questions. Good thing he knew some folk around town who had the type of specialized knowledge needed for these situations. They also knew enough not to ask questions or worried about any peculiarities in anatomy.

The best option was to take her to see the Boneman. The difficulty was going to be moving her. In his changed form he could probably carry her there with little problem. However that could attract a lot of unwanted attention. He wasn’t sure if his human shape was strong enough to carry her without causing any more, potentially fatal, damage.

Ah, well, shifted form it would have to be. Hopefully anybody who saw him would be too wasted to remember or notice. He bent down to scoop her up in his arms and was surprised to see her eyes flicker open.

"Nice doggy?"

He grinned, which may or may not have been reassuring, "Not quite".

"No hospital"

"No kidding"

That seemed to have taken what little strength she had left, so he carefully worked his forepaws under her body until she was secularly nestled in his arms. Straightening his legs he picked her up and brought her to his chest so he could support her body against his torso. With one last look around him to make sure those, whatever they were, things were really down for the count. (too much experience with the undead to trust things he didn’t know to stay dead)The last thing he needed was to be jumped while carrying her.

The Boneman’s place was some way off and he’d have to negotiate the city’s streets as carefully as possible if he wanted to get her there in one piece. Hopefully she could hang on until they made it. He’d have hated to go to all this trouble only to have her die. Hell it was going to take months to wash the awful taste of those things out of his mouth. He moved to the end of the alley and, after making sure there wasn’t anybody looking directly at him, he bent his legs and jumped - straight up three stories onto the roof of the tenement on the corner.


In the alley where the corpses lay some time passed. Attracted by the smell of meat and blood rats and other scavengers scurried over, only to take one sniff and flee in terror. Up close the scent was so far out of their range of experience their hind brains kicked in with "run away run away" commands.

Some more time passed. Then, at the far end of the alley a small point of light appeared. Gradually it grew from a point to an orb, from an orb to a large circle, until finally it was a hole of light in the darkness large enough for a person to walk through. Save it wasn’t anything recognizable on earth as a person who stalked out of the light.

It actually wasn’t anything most sane people would associate with light. While the wings might have given its silhouette a passing resemblance to an angel, any relationship it may have had to anyone’s definition of "good" ended  when they got their first whiff of its carrion smell.

Whatever it was smelled like it had been dead for - well it shouldn’t have been up and wandering around is for certain. Not that it really walked, it sort of shambled and slouched - long taloned feet dragging through the grime and dirt and wing tips trailing the ground behind it. The beak like protuberance perched under its eyes seemed to pull it onwards as the head bobbed back and forwards on the end of a serpentine neck like some mockery of a chicken.

Catching sight of the three corpses laid out on the floor of the alley it shambled froward, head to one side allowing one eye to stare at their dismembered figures. Raising a fold of skin over the eye in an obscene parody of a lifted eyebrow it managed to convey something akin to surprise. Something, or somebody, had interfered in the kill. There’s no way she could have inflicted those kind of wounds. Stooping low over the figure with the ripped out throat he examined damage.

"Fangs", it thought, " and claws" as it moved over to the one’s whose chest had been torn out. "Well, well, it looks like our friend has found a furry ally. That’s unexpected."

Musingly it tore a strip of flesh off the carcass in front of it and began idly chewing. Swallowing, it stood up. and placing its hands behind its back it wandered over to the mouth of the alley - occasionally stoping and stooping as if looking for something. Just before it came out into the light of the street it bent right over and picked up a small tuft of hair. Holding it up to one eye it carefully examined it, and then with a small sigh of satisfaction it placed it in an inner fold/pocket of its skin. Not much to go on, but the scent was distinctive enough, his trackers should be able to pick up the trail without too much difficulty. After all that’s why they got the big bucks, or had their heads ripped off.

With that he turned and walked back down the alley. As he moved further down into the darkness space seemed to fold in on itself and swallow him up as if he’d never even been there. Almost as an afterthought, he made an idle gesture with one claw like hand, and the three corpses and various loose appendages were swept up behind him. He didn’t need to leave loose ends lying around, and he might want a snack on the trip home.

However, he had been so preoccupied with finding the scent of the one who destroyed his servants, he failed to pick up on the scent of another witness. Although, to be fair, the area was so ripe with human scent he could hardly be expected to discern one fresh enough to have been there during the events. Or, that, which would have surprised him, it had followed the other two beings. What difference could a human make anyway?

Chapter Two

Steph was bored. In spite of the loud music, the people, and the beer in front of him he was painfully bored. Neither the band or the booze were doing it for him tonight - the music wasn’t particularly good and the beer - well it was just beer wasn’t it. It sat heavy in the stomach and only ended up making him feel stupid and queasy after a while. As for the people, well, here he was supposedly surrounded by people of like mind and age and all he could feel was how out of place he felt tinged with resentment at how they all seemed to be having the good time he wanted to have but just couldn’t quite manage.

He looked at himself in the mirror behind the bar (Why did bars always have mirrors behind their stacked bottles of booze? He didn’t think it was so the punters could see themselves or engage in any sort of deep self-reflection or soul searching - probably just make it look like there were more bottles than there really were.) To all outward appearances he looked much like everyone around him; wearing a mixture of army surplus and thrift shop - the de-rigour outfit of the artistic/punk in the year of our lord 1983.

Yeah, well, it still didn’t matter. Tonight he didn’t feel any connection at all with anything happening. He’d noticed his dissatisfaction increasing exponentially to the number of times he went out. Some French fuck had come up with an expression - the more things change the more they stay the same.

Don’t know if that applies. Being bored shitless by going to the same bars and seeing the same people over and over again might not be what he meant. Doesn’t matter, anyway. What matters is that if he didn’t find something else to do soon he’d go off his nut.

What used to be the escape from mundanity was now become mundanity. What did that say. As far as Steph was concerned it said he’d better get out of this bar before he did something stupid. He drank off the rest of his beer and headed for the back stairs. Not many people used them cause they led into a particularly dark and smelly alley, but tonight he wanted to avoid people. The privacy the alley offered would greatly offset the stink.

Reaching the bottom of the stairs he took a deep breath, and then pushed open the heavy steel door. He had been so focused on preparing himself for the stink it took him a couple of seconds to register what it was he was seeing. Then his eyes and brain caught up and he saw what looked to be three skin heads kicking some South East Asian chick on the ground.

As this sunk in he was found he was fucking paralyzed. Violence wasn’t something he was used to and he didn’t know what the fuck to do. Probably saying "hey leave her alone" would only result in getting his head kicked in. They were big fucking guys and probably ramped up on speed so there wasn’t  much he could do on his lonesome ’cept maybe cower in the corner and gibber and try to help her when they were done. Just as all these thoughts were chasing themselves likes panicked rabbits thought his head some fucking huge animal came out of seemingly nowhere and proceeded to rip the three to shreds.

He would have puked or passed out, but if he’d been stunned by the site of the three kicking the girl on the ground, them been torn to pieces was paralyzing. He didn’t know whether he was a coward or not, but he did know he had been shocked by the violence when he walked into the middle of the kick-fest, and didn’t know how he’d have reacted if given the time. However, once the carnage had ended, he watched the dog like creature stoop over the girl with what was obviously tenderness and heard her say something to him.

While the laugh that came out of its throat was almost as frightening as the growls it had been making when it had torn into the skinheads, at least it made him sound like something a little less terrifying. Still, that didn’t explain where he found the nerve to creep past the dismembered bodies in the alley and go after the, walking dog?, when he picked the young woman up and carried her away.

        At first he thought keeping up with them was going to be problematic, they were going so fast, but when he cleared the alley their path was fucking obvious. All he had to do was follow the trail marked by stunned expressions and variations on "what the fuck was that" being sprouted in their wake.

The longer the chase went the harder it became for him to follow. Not only were they travelling into a sparsely populated area, but he was having trouble maintaining the speed necessary to keep pace with the - furry thing?- christ he didn’t even have any idea what to call it let alone what it was - carrying the girl was setting. In fact, he thought as his feet slowed to a walk and his breath stabbed into his ribs like a nasty blade, he didn’t even know why he was bothering, or why he had headed out in the first place.

Impulses are all well and good in their place, but they could also get you into all sorts of trouble. Like now for instance. Taking stock of his surroundings he noticed the trail had led down to the warehouses down by the old train tracks. A series of dilapidated buildings left over from the days manufacturing was down in the freight yards the better to have access to both supplies and transport to markets.

They had been abandoned with the years. Now the empty hulks lurked in the dark with sightless windows overlooking allies and poorly lit streets. Some of  them were still functional, he knew some local bands had rehearsal space in them, but here and now they were empty and the streets around them were desolate.

So he was standing in a pretty much unlit street surrounded by abandoned buildings. All of a sudden he felt like he had a target on his back. Or even worse, a big cartoon bubble with an arrow pointing at him containing the word victim in neon, flashing, colours. He had just decided to turn around and start retracing his steps when he caught sight of movement off in front of him.

Instinctively he pulled back into the shadows in an attempt to keep hidden but still be able to see. As he stared he saw the distinctive shape of the creature - crap that sounded like something from a B-grade horror movie, the furry creature - with somebody cradled in its arms come into view. They approached a door at the far corner of the building across from him and which opened without them knocking.

Chapter 3

        The lights seemed to be flickering. Which was odd for the afterlife. Sure humans believed nonsense like tunnels of light and beautiful music accompanied them on the way to the hereafter, but she knew better. You just moved on to the next scheduled body. Your brain and all the other important bits were simply slotted into place and you’re awareness kicked back in. Even if you had been kicked to death in a back alley on another planet you wouldn’t get flickering lights.

        You also wouldn’t hurt so much. Or feel like you’d almost been kicked to death in a back alley on a planet you had no business visiting. Fuck. So, not dead, just incredibly stupid and sore. A love of Joe Strummer was no excuse for being on the wrong planet at the wrong time without ensuring proper back up or support. Fuck again. And why were the lights still flickering? Or were here eyes totally fucked?

        The last thing she remembered was some guy with a really heavy beard? No that didn’t sound right cause there might have been fangs and claws involved as well. Shit. Maybe one of the pointy heads had kicked a key part of her head and given her brain damage. While she might not know all there was to know about earth, she didn’t think full body hair, fangs, pointy ears and claws were standard on most humans. In fact her clearest memory was the smell of something like dog, which definitely couldn’t be right.

        Maybe if she sat up. When she came to again a few minutes later she realized that wasn’t the greatest idea either. A momentary awareness of severely stabbing pain followed by instantaneous decent into blackness again. Okay, very much alive alright, but not doing very well. So don’t move - how about talking?

"Hello". Aside from her voice sounding like it was coming from the bottom of a well and  was being scrapped over a piece of tin that wasn’t so bad. Of course it all depended on who or what heard her.

"Ah, its alive" followed by maniacal laughter wasn’t was she had in mind for reassurance.

"Jesus, boney, do you have to do that with every patient - it scares the crap out of them, and me." said a sort of rough and growly voice.

"Goodness, you show up here in the middle of the night with some 9/10ths dead, well I could say chick but as she’s not from this galaxy let alone world I’m not going to be that gender specific, expecting me to try and put it back together and you’re going to deny me even a little bit of pleasure?", said a less sepulchral version of the previous voice. "You’d think after a few centuries you’d have developed a sense of humour".

        Okay then. While all that was a little weird at least neither voice sounded like it was in any particular hurry to continue the job stated earlier that night. In fact it sorta sounded like they were trying to save the body she currently inhabited. Cool. She kinda of liked it. Hmm.. she struggled to form words again, "female".

"So a chick"

"You know man some women don’t like being referred to as chicks"

"Ooh, look at him, mister gentlemanly political correct dude always knowing the right thing to say. Jesus for a werewolf with a serious heroin problem you certainly all hung up on formalities."

"Sometimes formality is all you have left to hang onto."

        The pause she heard after that was as long as it was poignant. "Shit - sorry man, that wasn’t cool."

"No, don’t worry, you’re right I’m one to talk. I hide down back alleys with a needle in my arm so I don’t have to face myself. Who the fuck am to give anybody lectures on etiquette. No apologies necessary. We’ve known each other too long for me to expect you to buy any of my shit - let along swallow it."

"Just the image I wanted - Werewolf shit for breakfast"

"Bite me"

"You wish"

        Her snort of laughter was as unexpected as it was painful. Whoever these two were, neither of them were exactly human either. In fact the whole mystery of fur and dog like smell were rapidly being cleared up. She’d only been coming to earth for the last six or seven years, a chance hearing of the first Clash album through a hole in the space time continuum had piqued her curiosity, but she till thought it unlikely werewolves were all that common. Of course she had no basis for comparison for that observation, maybe they were everywhere.

        Two faces, with similar expressions of concern etched on them - which given their radically different physiology was remarkable - at the sound of her laugh now directed their attention towards her. One looked remarkably human, save for some minor extension around the ears, while the other - the other was for all intents and purposes a walking skeleton of what probably had been human at one point in time.

        Okay that was definitely weird. She tried closing her eyes and then opening them again but the image stayed the same.

"Wow you’ve really become ugly in your human shape - if she could move her head she’d have been shaking it to throw the image off. That blink was a dead give away."

"You don’t think it had anything to do with the fact you look like something my relatives would spend their time gnawing on as an after dinner snack?"

"Nah, nothing frightening about me - I’m streamlined and pared down. The ultimate result of fad dieting brought to life before your eyes - so to speak."

"It would help if you were alive - well breathing anyway."

        The conversation going on over head wasn’t making things that much clearer as to whom her rescuers might have been, but at least it confirmed her brief first impression; they weren’t exactly human. She opened her eyes for a second look.

"Hello again. Please don’t let my furry friend’s lack of manners put you off, after all he just saved your life. Well, technically I did, but he had a paw in the process as he hauled your almost carcass with just enough time to spare for me to put you back together again - something not all the king’s men could have done even if they could have been fucking bothered."

        Okay, maybe not quite a skeleton, but the flesh was stretched so tightly over his frame you could almost count the bones underneath. Cadaverous was definitely invented with him in mind. However, no matter how much he looked more like jerky than human his voice was still friendly enough and he did seem to have pieced her back together. She might not be going anywhere fast, but she would be able to go somewhere again. Better than she could have hoped for actually.

        Trying to turn her head to look at the other voice only confirmed that she wouldn’t be moving any time soon as she almost blacked out from pain. When she could see again the face she saw was comparatively normal. At least she couldn’t see individual bones showing through his skin.

        The tufts of hair around his rather pointy ears and the length of teeth that showed in his smile were major give aways that he might not be exactly human. However much he might differ from the human norm physiologically his eyes were remarkably compassionate. They also looked like they’d seen far too much - which probably explained the needle in the arm comment she’d overheard. Which in turn answered the question of what he’d been doing in that particular alley positioned to prevent her from being kicked to death.

        She wondered if she could find the energy required to talk, and be heard. She could at least say thank you.

        "Oi, none of that young lady. If you do anything stupid like trying to talk and hurt yourself again I’ll be right pissed. Don’t think because you’re able to move your head from side to side you’re on the road to recovery."

        It was remarkable how much this Boneman, was that really what the other guy called him?, could sound like somebody’s mother. Which was an odd thought coming from her as the only experience she had with mothers was based on watching human representations of them on video and early Frank Zappa records.

        Okay, so she wasn’t doing as well as she thought if she was making bad pop music jokes. There was something though, something she needed to remember - might have even been important.

        "What happened to the other one?" her voice was barely above a whisper, and neither of the two watching her were actually sure if she was even talking to them, or was drifting off into some other memory of something else. "Somebody else saw, saw you save me".

        Okay, that was pretty clear. But they weren’t going to get any more out of her as she seemed to have passed out again. At least she’d closed her eyes and stopped talking. Their eyes met over her head.

"Julian - what didn’t you notice?"

"Shit, how can I tell what I don’t notice? I was busy tearing three things apart, trying not to swallow as they tasted awful, and then keeping her alive to notice much of anything else."

        If Boneman had eyebrows one would have lifter archly as he said, "Also, darling, to not put too delicate a spin on things, you were probably stoned out of your fucking gourd and lucky to have enough operating brain cells to do what you did safely. Not being critical you understand, just spelling things out."

"Yeah, well there is that. But what does it matter if some human saw - anybody who was down that alley isn’t going to be any more sober than I was when I first got there. In fact, I’d bet even money they’ve convinced themselves it never even happened. What are you doing"?

        Boneman had walked over to a bank of what looked to be TV sets bolted to the wall of his space. Some of them were obviously hooked up to the multiple VCRs he had, Julian could  even see a couple of Beta decks piled in among the VCRs. As far as Julian was concerned Beta decks were proof that even Sony could be fallible and they made him feel better about the world as a whole. There were also a series of what looked like coaxial cables running from the sets to holes in the walls and from there to assorted mystery destinations.

        As Boneman turned the various sets on not much changed on most after the initial burst of light signifying the power coming on as they stayed dark. But others showed gradations of black to grey as if they were showing dimly lit rooms. One showed what looked like it could be a street scene - like you’d find in a particularly sinister film noir, complete with a figure creeping carefully towards a closed door as if expecting something or someone to jump out at him.

        "Well that’s interesting. It seems somebody followed you here and is contemplating entering my lair. Would you like to greet him or should I?"

        "What are you talking about?’

        "Cameras darling - cameras. I have them set up all over the place to keep an eye on folks coming and going - well mainly coming as not many who come ever go now do they? This camera you see is situated so it shows me anybody in the vicinity of the front door. How do you think I’m able to open the door without you knocking? Sorry to disappoint but it’s not because I’ve any special powers or any such shit - just know how to string cable and run cameras remotely so I can see when somebody is at the door. Like there is now."

        Julian brought his head closer to the television screen and saw the grainy image of a small human figure lurking just outside the door he had used about a half-hour ago. It looked like it was trying to work up the courage to try the door. At least that’s the impression he had from the way it kept reaching out to the door’s handle and then pulling his hand back again.

        He felt his hackles begin to rise and a low growl began to form in the back of his throat.

"Down boy,’ Boneman said, "Don’t go charging in hackles up and teeth out - let’s just invite the little boy in and see what he wants. Who knows he might be delightful company? If not, well better to deal with such delicate matters privately don’t you think?" A slight moue of distaste caused his lips to curl up revealing carefully filed and sharpened teeth.

        Julian found it amusing his friend would be so affected when it came to talking about "delicate maters". Boneman could rip the head of most humans with his bare hands and not even blink. To be fair, just because he could do it didn’t mean he necessarily enjoyed it. Although what he did with the bodies afterwards was another story altogether. His collection, as he called it, was something not for the faint of heart nor weak stomached.

"Well, should we let him in? Or are you just going to stand there ruminating on whatever it is your kind think about when you’re being indecisive? Oh come on darling, lets see what followed you home, if you’re really good maybe we can keep it... doesn’t that sound nice?"

        If the grin accompanying nice hadn’t looked even more feral than he could usually manage Julian might have thought Boneman was being genuine. Whoever was behind the door better have a really good reason for being there if he didn’t want to end up adorning some wall in one of the many crypt like alcoves Boney had carved out of the foundations to best display his creations.

        Allowing himself to enter the state needed to change quickly, Julian nodded for Boneman to open the door and let whomever waited in.

Chapter Four

        Okay Steph, what you going to do now? The big dude just took the girl through that door and vanished. So why the fuck did you follow them here? Okay, so no easy answer to that one. Maybe it was because you wanted to find out what the fuck it was all about? Yeah that sounds good. Okay.

        So why am I lurking on the street outside the door not even pretending to walk up to it. Well, let’s see. Three guys who looked sort of like skin heads, but probably weren’t, were kicking the shit out of somebody who looked like a South East Asian punk girl and had their hearts and throats ripped out by something that looked suspiciously like a giant walking and talking dog. The "dog", in quotes because he wasn’t quite sure what the hell it was, proceeded to pick up the girl and carry her to this abandoned warehouse.

        Fuck. I’m scared, he thought. Who wouldn’t be? Realistically curiosity will only carry you so far until you have to actually do something, and doing something under these circumstances might be more than is reasonable to ask of yourself. Okay, that sounded like a cop-out even listening to himself saying it in his own head. Shit - ’screw your courage to the sticking place’ - oh great quoting Lady Macbeth is really going to make things better.

        Admit it. You’re fucking bored and as usual was just pulled along by the force of something going on which didn’t involve you having to think too hard about doing anything. But now - yeah here and now - time to make a decision.

        Of course decision making was never Steph’s strong suit. Which was probably why he was just sort of drifting all of the time.

        Fuck, no time for wool gathering now. Lurking in the shadows and being introspective seems to be a way of guaranteeing getting your throat ripped out. Okay, so going through the door, where you know, the ’person’ who just recently did some throat ripping is any wiser? Yeah, but he done it to save the person who was getting the shit kicked out of her.

        As all this was running through his head his feet had been moving, as of their own accord, towards the door. So he was almost surprised when he found himself standing right outside the door with his hand outstretched reaching for the door knob. He pulled his hand away, and then just as slowly extended it again.

        He almost shat himself when the door opened. If there had been some sort of ominous creaking noise he probably would have. So now he had to decide whether or not he should enter through the decidedly creepy self-opening door. Great, somebody took away one decision and now he’s faced with another. Well the door had opened for the guy and the girl, so maybe it’s just a convenience, nothing ominous.

        Maybe it was because Steph was being careful, looking around, he spotted the camera. It was hard bolted to the exterior doorframe and pointed in such a way nobody could approach the door without being seen. Okay, that explained how whoever inside knew to open the door. Must be some kind of close circuit television system inside - he could just make out the coaxial cable running from the butt of the camera that must connect up to a monitor.

        Just because the person or persons inside the building had the technical knowhow to run this type of set-up didn’t mean they weren’t seriously weird - big hairy guys who ripped people’s throats out  aren’t normal. However, the technology did reduce the supernatural quotient sufficiently to allow Steph to relax enough to walk in the door.

        Once through the door it became a matter of simply putting one foot in front of the other and following the corridor to the next closed door. He was almost there when it was flung open to show, absolutely nothing. It was pitch black in the space beyond the door and he couldn’t see shit.


"Oh, sorry darling, let me get the lights." said a surprisingly camp voice.

        If the voice was a surprise the body revealed when the lights came on was a shock of epic proportions. Tall and skeletal, covered in pale, almost translucent skin, the figure was like something out of warning film for the dangers of doing too much speed. In fact he’d known speed freaks with more flesh on their bones than this ...?

        "I know, you’re all agog at my splendour. Now you can stand their gaping for a little while longer dear boy, but we’re going to want some answers as to why the fuck you’re lurking outside my door. I do like visitors on occasions, and even gentlemen callers, but not ones who show up and then proceed to sneak and lurk in the dark outside my home. It makes me all nervous. And I don’t like being nervous."

        On the last nervous the voice had become a low purr in which threat wasn’t just implied but made obvious. The promise of pain delivered slowly, and with exquisite enjoyment was easily heard as well. The only thing Steph could do, well, was tell the truth.

        "Uh, well, I’m not really sure what I’m doing here. You see I saw this guy, well I think it was a guy, and he rescued this girl who was getting the shit kicked out of her by three skin head type guys, but he did it by ripping two of their throats out with his teeth and sort of jerking the other one’s heart out of his chest with his ... fingers? Then he picked her up and ran out of the alley with her.

        "I was just curious I guess and wondered how she was and if there was anything I could do because well I’m not much use in a fight, well at least not as useful as your buddy, I’m assuming he’s your buddy right, but I can, you know, maybe find her a place to stay or do something for you that requires going out in public cause let’s be real you don’t really blend do you?

        All this had been said in a rush. One long sentence and maybe without breathing. The person standing opposite him just looked at him and seemed to smile.

"Julian, he says he wants to help" he called over his shoulder.

        One of the shadows separated itself from  the others and stepped forward. He had longish black hair combed over his ears and a five o’clock shadow that seemed to begin at his chin and run down his chest under his shirt collar. His mouth looked wider than most peoples, which could also explain why it appeared he had more teeth than normal. From what could be seen he looked relatively normal.

        "He seems sincere enough even if he does need lessons in both etiquette and breathing. Breath at the end of a sentence dear boy and you might not feel like you’re going to pass out all the time. Now then, why don’t we come into my lair..." Perhaps the laugh was supposed to make Steph feel at ease, but all it did was make his skin crawl. The word lair just had too many unpleasant associations and this guy looked like he would have all the worst of them on display.

        Probably on slabs or hanging from meat hooks.

        Which didn’t stop Steph from nodding his head and following the other two down the corridor and through a second door. While there was more light in the room than in the hall leading to it, it was still dark enough that his eyes had a difficult time adjusting or making out individual shapes in the gloom. One side of the room was illuminated by the glow of multiple television sets - each of which showed views of different corridors and chambers in the building as well as a street scene which he recognized as being the door he had so recently stood in front of.

        So that’s where the camera he spotted was showing its footage. Pretty sophisticated stuff - it was a better set-up than Video Cabaret’s or any of the other Video/Performance art folk had. However, it was all on the same principle - monitors hooked up to cameras - except here it wasn’t art, well maybe some sort of video verity but that’s it. Okay now he wasn’t just babbling out loud he was babbling inside his head as well - not good. So what next - oh yeah the girl.

"So how is she anyway?"

"By "she" I take it you mean the one Julian scooped up and brought here? Well she had various internal injuries, but nothing that couldn’t be put back together with a little this and a little that."

        He stopped at the expression of What the fuck that showed up on Steph’s face.

"What, you think I’m going to tell any little punk who walks in here my secrets? "She" is resting comfortable darling and that’s all you need concern yourself with."

"Why do you keep doing that weird thing with she, you know like your putting it in quotes or something. She looks like a she to me." Steph replied.

"Looks can be deceiving sometimes though can’t they darling?" murmured  Boneman, "I mean, here you’re in the presence of two perfect examples. Julian, dear boy that he is, isn’t exactly what he looks to be on the surface is he? And me, well I have hidden depths you wouldn’t ever want to begin to explore."

"As for our friend here, well, yes she does look like a she, and for all intents and purposes in this form she is a woman (quite frankly darling I think we need a change of pronouns don’t you?) But who knows what she looks like in other instances. She may even have tentacles for all we know.’

        At that Julian let out a laugh which sounded like a mix between a growl and a bark. "Well, she certainly smelt human enough when she was bleeding out in the alley back there. So we can probably rule out her being octopi when she’s on this planet. I can’t say what she’d look like when at home."

        Steph was still trying to get his head around the fact these two weren’t exactly human and now they were telling him what looked like a perfectly normal South East Asian punk girl (okay he didn’t know all that many South East Asians period let alone ones who went the full punk route so that wasn’t exactly normal but - and that thought wasn’t going to go anywhere useful at the moment) wasn’t ... wasn’t what?

"What do you mean when you say what’s she like at home? I’m going to take a leap and guess you’re not referring to somewhere in South East Asia." He was looking at Julian but as he finished his eyes turned to Boneman. They turned to each other and exchanged what could be called identical glances if that were possible given their radically different physiology. Sort of a shrug and how much should we tell this kid anyway - this kid who we don’t know and who has stumbled into this shit.

"You know", said Boneman addressing Julian, "What are the odds of a human just happening to stumble into the alley at the exact moment you were eviscerating three alien beings as they were attempting to kill our friend over on the slab?" As Julian went to answer Boneman continued, "Pretty fucking huge wouldn’t you say?"

"Which means," said Julian, "he’s probably supposed to be here and needs to be involved in this, whatever the fuck this is, just like you and me. So maybe we should tell him what we know."

"Do I need to remind you", Boneman said with some asperity, "that I’m only involved because you showed up with this delightful creature in urgent need of medical attention. Not that that doesn’t mean I’m not supposed to be "involved" ( I don’t know about either of you two but I’m becoming quite sick of implying quotes on words so can we just settle this shit and get on with things) but I think only in a tangental way.

        He paused for a second, then continued, "Actually, I’m pretty much a tangent no matter what goes on around me. All of which isn’t really relevant to anything, but you’re right he needs to be told as much as we know and then she’ll have to fill in the blanks later."

        Listening the two talk left Steph’s head spinning. Although he didn’t think that was deliberate on their part, he couldn’t be sure. They seemed like the type of guys who like to mess around just for the sake of messing around.

"Okay, so I’m supposed to be involved, or something like that right, just because I followed you," nodding at Julian, "and found you’re little hide out where you somehow pieced this person back together. Have I got that right? Although as I’ve gathered from you she might not actually be a person in the sense I’m used to?"

        He paused and looked from one face to the other of the two opposite him for a second as if searching for an answer of some sort or another. When nothing was forthcoming he asked, "How am I doing so far?"

"That’s about right" Julian replied grinning.

        Although it was nice to see the man grin, Steph sort of wished Julian didn’t have to show quite so many teeth. Most humans didn’t look that feral and threatening when they grinned. Maybe it was unnerving because it reminded him that he’d seen him rip somebody’s throat out with those teeth.

        "Okay, so what happens now?" Steph asked and was surprised when a third voice said "Don’t I have any say in the matter?"

Chapter Five

        She had been awake for awhile, but not really paying attention to what was going on around her. In fact she hadn’t really ever passed out. She’d enjoyed listening to Julian and Boneman bitch at each other. It was fun. One of the things she like about visiting earth, aside from Joe Strummer and punk in general, were some of the conversations she was able to overhear. It’s not that people didn’t communicate back home, they didn’t talk.

        It’s one thing to telepathically transfer thoughts and ideas from one being to another, and it’s another thing altogether to have a conversation. Never mind the fact that voices can imply so much, where a word’s meaning can change through inflection, there’s what people do with their faces and bodies as well. The first few times she made the crossing she would spend hours just watching people talk.

        After she got over the fear they might be having a seizure, she got used to how every part of their bodies came into play. From a subtle leaning twist of a shoulder to the frantic waving of hands - each person had a different way of manifesting the deeper feelings behind their words. Careful examination had led her to realize these physical characteristics could be divided into either natural extensions of an emotion or deliberate attempts to disguise the same.

        Still, didn’t mean most of the time people were only talking a load of shit. No matter how sincere they tried to make themselves sound or appear, most humans were always trying to sell somebody something - sex, booze, politics or opinions. Listening seemed to be something the other person was supposed to do - not them.

        Still, that was half the fun of human interaction -sifting through the shit. So she’d been lying on this here slab letting the conversation and other background noise sort of wash over her. It was fun and relaxing. She had sensed the third life form, probably human male but as she was fading in and out of darkness at the time she felt she could be excused for not being exact, back in the alley.

        It had been fun watching the other two react to her mentioning she had noticed somebody else. But it had also must have hurt a fuck of a lot to say anything because she must have blacked out again for a bit as events seemed to have moved on quite a bit from then. For instance there was a new person in the room now. Male and human - relatively young.         

        Interesting, he must have followed Julian here. He didn’t smell like the hero type, in fact he didn’t smell of anything except fear, worry and insecurity - all pretty much standard for young human mortals. However there was something. Fuck it, it’s just too hard to think when it feels like Topper Hedden is using your head as tom toms. Why did Strummer ask him to play so heavy anyway?

        What was that all about? Focus on what’s going on you silly ditz. saying this in her head helped her hear what the three guys were saying with a little more accuracy and she couldn’t resist chiming in with her "Don’t I get any say in the matter".

        The looks on their faces told her they thought she had still been out - well except Boneman because who the fuck knew what his expression said except that he’d like to make a nice snack out of your liver - which was probably just his default as he’s yet to show any inclination to nibbling on her internal organs which he’d had on display recently. Wow talk about reading too much into somebody’s expression.

        "Sweetie, so you’ve joined us again. Lovely to have you back among the not so dead, and yes of course you have some say in what happens. In fact I doubt any of us could persuade you to do anything you didn’t want to do anyway Hmmm?"

        "Normally, but now..." she let the rest of the thought trail off. Boneman of all people would know the truth about the shape she was in. Christ she was going to catch high holy shit when she got back home. Going off without notification, again, using an unregistered body, again, getting it damaged - at least that was first, attracting the attention of some being strong enough to cloak pointy heads, and finally letting not just one (again) but this time three locals know she wasn’t exactly from earth.

        The last might be mitigated somewhat by the fact only one was what you’d call typical to the locality. She was pretty sure werewolves, although mortal based, weren’t exactly common. While she had no idea who or what Boneman was, chances are his type were also pretty thin on the ground. It was only the last one, the one she had sensed just before passing out in Julian’s arms, who could cause her trouble at home. She would probably be expected to "limit the exposure" at some time. She hated their fucking euphemisms and all they implied.

        She looked over at the young mortal and was disconcerted to find him looking at her with sort of an awed expression on his face. That’s when she realized she wasn’t covered - at all. In fact quite naked. She had chosen the form for convenience, not for any aesthetic reason, but obviously it was attractive to men of a certain age and persuasion.

        When it became obvious she had noticed he was looking at her, the human male’s face turned an interesting colour of red and he hurriedly dropped his eyes so they were staring at the floor and mumbled a quiet "Sorry". Even though Boneman made a great show of collecting up a sheet to cover her up, he also made no attempt to hide how amusing he found the mortal’s growing confusion and her, well, there was no other word for it, discomfort.

        She wouldn’t have normally even thought of what her form, naked or clothed, would have had on another being - until she noticed it having an effect on the young mortal. "Okay, what’s your name? I keep calling you the "mortal" in my head and that’s just rude."

        It took Steph a couple of attempts to clear his throat enough to croak out "Steph". He was a pretty liberated guy, at least in his own mind, and he didn’t normally objectify or stare at women’s bodies, but her nakedness had startled him with her beauty. Her breasts were perfect, at least in his mind, and the colour of her skin reminded him of a pale chocolate honey. Oh that’s so not good - to be rhapsodizing about her skin colour without even knowing her name. So when it was obvious she’d caught him looking at her he couldn’t help the blush which steamed his face.

        She smiled at that, "Well, nice to meet you Steph, I’m" and she paused as if trying to remember something or figure something out, "Well to be honest I don’t really have a name to go with this body, and name I have at home isn’t exactly easy to say. Maybe you could help me come up with something appropriate to this body?’ She gave him an encouraging smile

"Wouldn’t Julian be a better choice? I mean he looks like he’s seen a bit more of the world than me and would know something more suitable." He said this half to the werewolf and half to, well whatever and whoever she was, on the slab.

"Nah, Steph, you probably know about as much as human names as I do. I haven’t been spending much time among mortals for the last century or so and those I do meet I’m not usually asking their names anyway. Don’t ask Boney for any help either he’d be next to useless as he doesn’t usually name his toys."

        Julian’s bark of laughter helped make the toy comment a little less scary, but not much. Especially when Boneman gave a particularly carnivorous grin in reply.

"That does beg the question though sweetie" added Boneman, "Why do you need a name? I wouldn’t expect you to be staying around here long enough to have to be called anything. Tourists like you usually don’t have extended visas - so to speak. Of course tourists don’t usually come to Toronto in 1982 or have the shit kicked out of them in a back alley by beings even more alien, and ones who sound seriously icky, than them either hmm?"

        When it was obvious he was waiting for an answer, she let out a deep sigh. "Okay, you’re right, I don’t have permission to be here - geez who’d have thought a love of The Clash could get a being in so much trouble. So, I just sort of snuck over to check out some of the bands I heard who would be playing The Cabana and somebody must have had me followed, or was targeting me, for some reason. They must have some serious power as well ’cause there’s no way three pointy heads would normally have been able to get the drop on me or travelled across the boundaries without being spotted."

"Scuse me for interrupting" said Steph, "but didn’t you say you had snuck over, couldn’t they have, I don’t know, managed to hitch a ride with you when you came? I mean sneaking on your part implies hiding, and they were hidden so..."

"Ooh, not just a pretty face" said Boneman, "He’s got a point honey what’s to have stopped somebody from just tagging along behind you - stowaways on the inter-dimensional train ride?"

"Nothing, but they would have had to have help. On their own they don’t have the abilities to make the jump. Somebody would have had to disguise them and then push them into my channel to make the passage. They’re nothing more than muscle who like hurting things."

"Well whoever chose to disguise them as skinheads got that right. And they also must have known skinheads would be inclined to kick the shit out of somebody who looks like you - dark skinned I mean." said Steph. "Which implies they know quite a bit about what things are like here."

        Julian gave Steph an approving nod before saying, "He’s right, and that’s not a nice thought."        

"Which is why I’m going to need a name, cause I can’t go back until I figure out what’s going on. Who or what is the real target here. Obviously I was at that point in time, but was that just to eliminate a witness to their crossing? Or I’m I the channel for them to get back to my dimension?"

"Ooh I do love a mystery." When everybody turned to stare at him, Boneman almost looked a little sheepish, "Well I’m sorry, but I do. Okay, I know this is all inter dimensional and perhaps end of the world stuff is creepy, but things can a little tedious around here. Nothing like the potential for interspecies conflict to liven things up a bit."

        Shaking his head, which brought a mock surprised "What" from Boneman, Julian said. "Okay, aside from our little adrenalin junky here getting all hot and bothered, I think we need to think of practicalities if our guest is going to be staying among us. A name is a good idea".

        Only joking a little bit Steph said "How about Janie Jones?" Naming the title of the opening song of The Clash’s first album. Of course, Steph thought, if she knows anything about the real Janie Jones she might be less than thrilled. Some people might be uptight about taking the name of a woman who had done seven years for running a brothel.

        If it bothered her at all, she didn’t show it. All she did was laugh and say, "Yeah, that’s good - I was thinking of Sheena, but I don’t like The Ramones all that much." She paused, and then looking down at herself covered with just a sheet, "Now we got the name thing sorted, next practicality - clothes. I can’t really walk around wearing nothing but a sheet."

"Not without attracting all the worst sort of attention."

"Thanks, Boney, for the sage advice." Julian sighed as he looked at his friend, did he always have to be so camp? "But she, I mean Janie, does have a point. She’ll need something to wear and you don’t have what I’d call an extensive wardrobe around here."

        Janie smiled, "Don’t worry, I got it covered, I was just making a list. Now that I have my strength back I’ll just regenerate some." Closing her eyes in concentration, which Steph noticed caused a very appealing frown line to appear along her forehead, she seemed to make the air shimmer like a heat haze on a summer’s day around her body and a moment later she threw back the sheet revealing she was now clothed in ripped jeans, a sweater, a leather jacket, and a pair of motorcycle boots. What with her Mohawk she now looked like any other punk kid again.

        Steph realized he was staring at about the same time he noticed his mouth hanging open. Looking over at Julian and Boneman he was relieved to see while they might not be as completely gobstoped as he was, at least they looked a little surprised. Laughing Janie, said, "Well it’s not like I’d have time to go shopping before I make inter dimensional jumps is it? So I just rearrange some basic molecules and instant clothes. It’s easier when it’s stuff like this  - high fashion is out of the question."

        "You couldn’t do me a leather jacket like that" said Steph,  only half joking.

        "Nah, sorry, only able to it for whatever body I happen to be wearing."

        Janie jumped off the table and only then realized how weak she still was. It took Steph quickly stepping forward and giving her his arm to hold onto to prevent her from falling down. "Wow", she said with a kind of shaky laugh, "that was awkward. Bollocks, I guess I’m not as strong as I hoped. Thanks by the way," she said to Steph "It doesn’t do the whole independent,  inter-dimensional, space traveller image much good if you face plant."

        "However," nodding at Steph to try removing his arm, "I seem to be able to stand, although a bit rocky. I guess it’s still the no sudden move or heavy lifting thing for a little bit."        

        "I should say so dearie, it took a lot of work to sew your pieces back together, and some of the replacement parts might not have been exact matches, so give yourself time to break them in - so to speak." Boneman’s demure smile did nothing to make any of them want to ask too many questions about where he managed to drum up "replacement" human type parts or what he had to do in order to make them fit.

        "Now that clothes are sorted, there’s the matter of what we’re going to do with you?" Everyone turned to stare at Boneman, who rolled his eyes. "Where’s she going to stay? My goodness you people have sick minds what did you think I meant?"         

        Steph thought he was probably deliberate with his comments and went out of his way to shock people. He probably didn’t have very much company and liked to put on a show when he had a chance.

        "While I’d love to have you, I’m not sure some of the other occupants would be so accommodating and my ’guest rooms’ don’t usually run towards comfort." Steph was now sure he was doing it on purpose. There’s no way somebody could cram that much innuendo into a sentence without making a serious effort.

        "Well, I don’t really live anywhere - and I’m sure you’ve had enough of back allies for a while. Steph, looks like it’s up to you" put in Julian.

        "We’ve got a spare room in the house I share." said Steph rather hesitantly. "That is if you don’t mind staying at the shit-hole I share with two guys. The good thing is Janie will blend right into the neighbourhood. Kensington Market is full of punks of all shapes and sizes. I doubt anyone will even notice her."

        "No idea what Kensington Market is, but blending in sounds good. The only trouble I can see is how I’m going to get there. I’m still a little wobbly and I don’t think we should risk Julian carrying me across the city again."

        "Well if you can walk a couple of blocks we can grab a street car that will take us to the subway, which we can take to Spadina - then we can hop on the Spadina Bus which will get us almost to my front door." At Janie’s look of surprise he laughed and said, "Yeah its an actual bus not just the name of a song - wait a moment where did you hear The Shuffle Demons? Oh never mind, might as well ask where you heard The Clash."

        Shaking his head in bemusement Steph turned to Julian, "Would you be able to walk with us to the streetcar stop? Help me keep Janie upright and maybe be a bit of muscle in case of not so friendly people around. This ain’t the greatest of neighbourhoods, especially at this time of night, and it would be silly if we were mugged after what Janie’s been through today."

Next Chapter: Chapter 6