Start

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(continued from Boom)

The sex-laden sub-bass of Usher’s Crash pervaded the dance floor of the very nightclub in which Chad had been stalking Carrie a bare hour ago. Midnight saw the dance-floor heaving with bodies, limbs moving in a way designed to signal availability in one sense or another, and the multi-coloured lights pulsed in glorious abandon.

Danny had scored. His face was aglow. Since his wife had left him six months ago for his best friend’s girlfriend, he’d been in a bit of a slump. Tonight was the first time he’d had a drink outside of his apartment, and the change of scene had paid off with the attention of the lissom Trixibelle. They had chatted by the bar, found the kind of interest in each other that lifted both their expectations of it being a good night and had then headed towards the dancing.

Trixibelle was cool and aloof as she swayed to the beat, and Danny was trying a little too hard as his limbs moved rather more than they needed to, but they kept eye contact and were both enjoying themselves immensely. They both looked up as a brighter flash of light washed over the writhing mass and their eyes widened as a series of agonised screams erupted from the crowd. They were the amongst the first to melt under the fierce pressure and heat of the slow-moving, orange inferno.

Bert was on a roll. Ordered by the bar manager to take a break from pulling pints behind the bar and collect glasses, he had been pulled aside by the corpulent incumbent in said role and told to keep an eye on the floor as he walked around. Not really understanding what this was supposed to achieve, he did it anyway and, as he crossed the edge of the dance-floor, he spotted a folded up piece of paper that looked rather like a five. Picking it up, he was delighted to find that it was so. Seeing a guy dancing near to it, he asked him, on the spur of the moment, if he had dropped it. Without a word or glance, the guy plucked the note from his hand and pushed it into his pocket.

Disappointed, but undeterred, Bert carried on looking and was rewarded, in quick succession, by a twenty, a ten and several coins. Pocketing them all without saying a word, he headed towards a corner table at the back of the club, which he could see was covered with empty glasses. As he reached it, he spotted something in the darkest corner, under a bench. Putting his glass caddy down he reached towards the object but was unable to stretch far enough.

Standing back up, he stuck his leg under the bench, intending to hook it out. As his foot came into solid contact with the object, there was a flash of light and a slow, searing sensation in Bert’s foot. Looking down, he was shocked to see that his foot was enveloped in an orange glow that rapidly accelerated up his leg, melting the meat from his bones in the process. By the time it reached his crotch, he was screaming like a pre-pubescent girl and as it hit his lungs, the scream cut off instantly. But by that time, everyone around him had taken up his refrain as, one by one, their clothes burst into flames along with every other piece of prettily furnished flesh.

Within seconds, the walls themselves had melted under the inexorably expanding force. As the roof slammed down, already melting, no-one was hurt. They were already dead. And still, the wall of heat rolled outwards into the night. A nearby petrol station exploded, hurling flames into the night sky and blowing the windows out from several apartments close by.

Then, as if it had struck an invisible barrier, the blasting heat and light stopped expanding in all directions, but instead began to push across the cityscape in a straight line, as if it were a live creature heading for somewhere familiar and safe. It razed a half-mile thick line across that city, that consumed everyone and everything in its path with equal hunger, and showed no sign of halting as it headed towards the distant peaks outside the suburbs.

An ugly dawn had arrived early and without warning – welcomed by nobody. Except for one.

(continues in Fled)

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