The images flickered across the bank of black and white monitors. The glare from the screens lit up the face of the expressionless man sitting before them. He saw all, he heard all. No corner of Skaggerston was off limits, no home free from surveillance.
He made copious notes as he watched.
Some screens replayed historic footage of the town.
Other showed up to the minute feeds of the residents.
He scribbled something else on a checklist.
He reached forwards, turned off the screens.
Walked towards the exit.
Turned out the one dim light, and locked the door.
Callaghan had had enough. His thoughts had verged on suicidal for some time, since everything in his world went down the pan.
Wife, job, savings, home...
He clutched the bottle and took a deep swig. The tablets he'd swallowed ought to kick in soon, he thought. Then it'll all be over. All he had to do was keep drinking.
Another swig. A bad feeling inside. The vomit beginning to rise.
He retched, and leaned to one side as a stream of foul-smelling red liquid gushed from him. Wiping his mouth, he smiled ruefully.
Tizer had never agreed with him.
'And as we pass our dear friend Geoff into the Lord's care, let us take a moment to reflect on the good times spent with him...'
Emily could feel the wetness between her legs, and shifted uncomfortably.
'Geoff was a keen fisherman...'
Christ, there's nothing worse than an itch you can't scratch.
'...a devoted father, husband...'
Trickling down her inner thigh now. Her knickers must be sodden.
'...is death the end? For our physical selves, yes. But the spirit lives on...'
Emily could take it no longer. Funerals made her horny. Excusing herself, she retreated outside and frigged herself stupid.
Watkins first discovered he could tell the future whenever he ate crisps at precisely 11.47am on March 12th 2009. At first, he used this to his advantage, winning the Lottery, and helping to save his aunt's life after a vision of her with cancer caused him to tell her and convince her to get a lump checked out by her GP.
Alas, his crisp-related clairvoyancy did not prevent his death. Eager to retain his special skill, he consumed bag after bag of crisps - one such potato snack becoming lodged in his throat, choking him to death.
An edible assassin.
'DON'T GO INTO WORK TOMORROW' the text read. Lucas went to bed that night extremely anxious. Who was the message from?
Despite himself, he phoned in sick the next day. He sat at home, thinking about the text.
He drove into town and parked up a street away from his office. Minutes passed, hours.
A man in a bowler hat walked past, turned to face Lucas and doffed his hat. Seconds later, Lucas screamed as a deafening explosion shook his car. He looked up slowly at the remains of his office, shaking his head and murmuring 'no, no, no...'
Damn these infernal bars, keeping me prisoner.
How did I end up here, anyway? None of this was my fault. I didn't ask to be kept here, indefinitely, not knowing when I will get my freedom.
They bring me food every day, of course. Can't be seen to make me starve. That wouldn't look good.
I awake in my own faeces, brush myself down and venture once more to the bars of my cell.
I look out. I can see them. Sat there on the sofa, cooing at me. Christ, they're predictable.
I'm going on my wheel for a run.
Little Tommy sat bolt upright in bed. He'd heard something creak on the roof. Opening his bedroom window, he heard the unmistakeable sound of sleigh bells above. Santa!!
Santa lit a fag and sat back in his sleigh.
"Number 6, Patrick McGoohan Grove...let's see..." he pondered, rummaging in a sack of presents.
Rudolph turned his head to look at him. "Not this one" the reindeer said, bluntly.
Santa stopped searching, and reluctantly pulled a hand grenade from his pocket. He sighed, plucked out the pin, and approached the chimney.
"Do it" Rudolph instructed.
Santa dropped the grenade.
Rudolph nodded, smiled.
He lay as still as possible.
The first thump came quicker than expected.
Muffled sounds from above. Another thump, another shovel-full of earth.
This was his wish, his final act.
When he was secure beneath the earth, he would expand...grow.
His body, while it may decompose, would become one with nature.
He would be absorbed back into the world.
A rebirth of sorts.
A comeback, when Skaggerston was a kinder, more forgiving, place.
But he knew not of the poisons in the soil. The poisons that would stunt his growth. Nothing would grow in the wastes.
Not least him.
He'd attended the soiree reluctantly; all this high-society bollocks wasn't for him. Jackson was merely here as a 'plus one', and nothing more. He'd been separated from his companion, Dennis Brisk - a high-ranking official in Skaggerston Council - and had wandered into a room where a buffet was laid out.
'Do try the canapes darling, they're to die for' a lady swooned.
He stared in horror at the array of eyeballs, fingers and human leg-meat being served off the bone, and retched.
'What's the matter, chum? Don't like thigh?' a passing guest asked, his mouth full of flesh.
'John, pull over...' Sarah murmured.
'And the crime rate these days...'
'John...I need to tell you -'
'It's a disgrace. Not to mention a health hazard!'
'JOHN! SHUT UP! I'M SLEEPING WITH YOUR BROTHER!!' she cried.
The words hammered into John's brain. He turned his head to stare at his wife. Sarah was welling up, her eyes closed. A tear broke free and ran down her cheek.
The car smashed into a wall at nearly 40mph. Both driver and passenger lay in the wreckage, mortally wounded.
Oh yes. That'll serve the bitch right thought John, as darkness descended on him.
Bruce had to admit, once he'd gotten over the initial reluctance of seeing other men bang his wife to climax, he revelled in the act.
Taking the time to straddle her on the sofa while a man called Brian slapped his cock on her face, he suddenly felt a cold sweat on his neck.
He'd left the garden gate open!
Withdrawing, he ran naked through the hall into the kitchen. He moaned aloud as he saw a dozen zombies milling about, groaning at the lawn.
He'd never get the bastards out now. He looked under the sink for his shotgun.
All day. All sodding day he'd waited in for the package (again). And would he get the timeoff back from his workplace? Would he hell. But the parcel was important - his anniversary gift for his wife.
Idly tossing the remote control between hands, Tyler leapt up as he heard the doorbell ring. Finally!
He opened the door to see a tall, thin man wearing a hat.
'Mr. Tyler?' he asked.
'Yes?' Tyler replied.
The man produced something from his coat. It made a phut!! sound. A stain began to spread on Tyler's shirt.
The thin man smiled. Closed the door.
Dawn. The crumbling tower blocks looked particularly beautiful this morning. Polluted clouds rolled past, withered pigeons searching for sustenance in the concrete wastes.
Nathan sat on a swing in the rusted, decaying playground and lit a cigarette. As he took a drag, he noticed his hand was shaking.
Inside the pirate ship climbing frame, wrapped inside three bin-liners, was Charlotte, his girlfriend.
He'd said he didn't want the baby when she'd tearfully confessed her pregnancy to him. He couldn't look after a child. Not at fifteen.
A disagreement had ensued. She'd stopped breathing.
And so had her unborn baby.
It seemed so long ago; her husband inside the isolation unit at the hospital, a victim of an 'unidentified rogue virus' that had put him in a coma for three weeks. But he'd fought the disease, and beaten it.
And then he was discharged. She shuddered at the thought. Oh he'd be all sweetness and light at first. But the verbal abuse, the beatings...they'd return soon enough. She examined the scar on her arm from a previous knife attack at his hands.
Oh yes, it was good to see such a salt of the earth man back on his feet.
Click...clack... her heels rang out on the wet concrete. She checked her watch: 12.54am. Shit, mum'll be pissed off when I get home... she thinks.
Glancing ahead, she sees the hooded man, loitering by a pillar, looking at his mobile. She swallows hard, realising the only way out is by passing him. She holds her handbag strap tighter.
Getting nearer now, the man looks up. Undressing her with his eyes. Her mouth is dry as she draws level with him.
Something flashes in the artificial light. The man's face contorts in pain as the blade plunges deep.
The girl smiled.
LOCAL BABY SHAMING AWARDS
Tell Skaggerston just how much of a little shit your pride and joy can be. Refreshments provided. Town hall, Aug 7th, 12.30am.
HUNT THE ROMANIAN
Jill Kinniver is arranging another of her popular 'Romanian Hunts' this Sunday at 3pm in the Donald Crowhurst Woods. Bring a spade.
£2 a book. Prizes include oral, fingerings, and all-the-way. Sheaths provided. 3.30pm, Kuntzdrama Club, Wogan Suite.
POLITE REMINDER TO ALL CITIZENS -
Are you a waste of oxygen? Ensure you carry your oxygen entitlement card at all times to avoid suffocation by the zero-tolerance patrols.
'Alright Bert, many due this morning?' asked Jim, Bert's co-worker at the Skaggerston Child Recycling Plant.
Bert took a pull on his fag and shook his head sourly. 'Aye, bout fifty of the little buggers' he replied. 'Crackdown at the care home, apparently. Last Chance Saloon job; the council's had enough of 'em.'
'Do you ever wonder if we're in the right line of work, Bert? Recycling kids?'
'Pays the bills' he snorted, haughtily. 'Look lively, they're here.'
Jim looked through the window at the coach pulling up in the forecourt.
Better get the furnace fired up, he thought.
The children had been so excited; the first school trip for some months was not to be missed. They were allowed to go in their own clothes, and free from the restraints of slacks and blazers, their excitement shone through. Alexander knelt on his seat, looking out the window.
The lush greenery of the countryside gave way to a bleak, industrial landscape. Towering factories and identical business parks forever and ever, amen.
They were nearing their final destination now, and as the coach pulled up outside a grey, non-descript structure, Alexander felt that all was not as it seemed.
The journey was rough, but The Professor emerged in 1964 relatively unscathed, with only slight TDS (Temporal Displacement Syndrome). He'd done his homework, and knew this was where his mother had lived at the time. He'd read her old diaries, worked out where she and her friends hung out.
He first saw her walking down her street towards her house (his grandma's house), her long blonde hair swishing...and that arse...Christ! He'd nearly had to retreat to a nearby bus shelter to crack one out right there.
Seeing her disappear through the front door, he planned his next move.
The rattling from his chest continued, as it had for the past week. He'd been deeply traumatised by the swarm of tarantulas that had appeared en masse in the park that day; he was sure one of the cunts had bitten him. The huge black bruises on his thigh and arms were evidence enough.
Now, hunched in his wheelchair, Galloway was seriously considering swearing off his pursuit of children over the internet.
As his eyes strayed to his notice-board full of his favourite images of abuse however, he knew his resolve would slip, whether he liked it or not.