Fantasy magazine

From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism




Shouty Lads

2 a.m. in South London, and the dark is shattered again by roars and laughing and screaming. The shouty lads again, the ones around each night, every night, apparently drunk, sound like they’re murdering each other.

You get used to ignoring it, if you live in South London. Not your business.

One night Sammy can’t ignore it because it’s fucking 2 a.m. in the fucking morning and it’s a fucking Tuesday. He has work tomorrow. It’s right outside. It sounds like a pervert stepping on Lego and enjoying it. Another cry sounds like a man angry at a wall. There’s a stream of anger in a foreign language, but the word “POOPY” is there. Sammy thinks he misheard a foreign word but no, it was “POOPY” like the enraged man ran out of adult curses and went back to childhood.

He should call the police, except last time they said “call the council.” If not that, he should—as a Londoner—ignore it. Someone else’s business, don’t make a fuss. Instead he throws a jacket and shoes on and storms out of the flat and into the alleyway to yell, powered by righteous anger and fatigue.

What he sees in the alleyway is a hulking mass of rubbish in the shape of a man, with a head of raw meat smashed together into something with fangs, and screams.

Then he registers the half-dozen men. Three are smashed into the ground and walls. The other three gesture at the beast with v-signs and middle fingers, and they yell and curse and laugh. The beast swipes at one, and its hand of bin bags explodes into filth. It impacted on nothing but bravado and noise.

One man staggers, unable to keep yelling—he has to take a breath. As soon as he stops speaking, the beast strikes him down.

It laughs like a drunken sadist and holds up two fingers of detritus. “I’m winning.”

Sammy knows, a sudden and fearful instinct, that if this thing wins, London burns.

The other two shouty lads advance, effing and blinding and waving “come on then” gestures at the air, and the rotted thing takes a careful step back before lashing out again—if it lands, it’s all over.

The last bin bag hand explodes. With a wail like a roasting baby, the thing dissolves and rubbish is strewn across the alley.


In the pause, as the two men help their comrades up, Sammy makes a brief, bewildered whine. The men turn and look. One winces in sympathy.

“If we don’t shout each night, London falls to darkness,” he tells Sammy. “And now you’ve seen it, you’re marked as one of us. The Mark of Wittington is upon you now.

“You really should have ignored the noise.”

Charles EP Murphy

Charles EP Murphy started writing and nobody’s made him stop yet. Living in Britain with a comic collection that threatens to collapse and form a black hole, he has both self-published and written short stories & novellas for various indie presses including Sea Lion Press, Sergeant Frosty Publications, Ghost Orchid, and FutureQuake. He has predominantly written in the alternative history subgenre, which serves as an unholy union of his interests in history, politics, and deep-cut comics continuity trivia.