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When Nicol crawled into Laverick’s house through an upstairs window, he heard a commotion from downstairs.
He’d ran into one of the bedrooms – narrowly missing a swing of a fire poker from a kid who’d been hiding behind the door – and seen Laverick on the floor in the midst of a vast pool of blood.
His skin crawled at the idea of the digital children being set loose without their ominous guardian to keep them in check.
Terrifying sounds came from downstairs; screams mixed with blood-curdling laughter.
He paused for a second, trying to figure out what to do.
He’d seen a car in the street, parked up across the road from Laverick’s house of horrors.
Laverick’s car sat in the drive, the driver’s door half open.
Now that taking the doctor out of here alive was no longer an option, he thought fast.
The doctor was the only one with all of this knowledge.
And it was all there inside his skull.
Without stopping to consider the insanity of his plan, he grabbed the head, wincing and squirming when his hands sunk into the bloody open wound on Laverick’s throat.
He saw a butcher’s knife on the floor and set to work severing the head from the body.
It was grim work, and it spattered him in warm gore.
But he made his mind up there and then that, if challenged, he would say he was attacked by the mad doctor and his demonic children.
After a sickening twisting sensation that he felt would stay with him as long as he’d live, he finally wrenched Laverick’s head free from his body.
The good eye was ruined by the monocle jammed crudely into it.
The other, already white and glassy, seemed to stare up at him, asking him what the hell he was playing at.
He shuffled out into the hallway, the butcher’s knife held in one trembling hand, the severed head stuffed under his jacket, congealing blood cold and slick against his belly.
Between the rank feel of the doctor’s blood, the idea that he was carrying someone’s severed head, and of course the threat of the murderous bionic children, he had never felt so uncomfortable in his life.
His skin crawled.
He struggled to find his way through the house in the darkness.
Plus the house was so sprawling that it was easy to imagine himself getting lost in here forever.
He heard a shuffle of movement, and saw a small kid moving back and forth inside one of the next rooms, as though on sentry duty.
A horrid scraping sound accompanied him.
Further inspection revealed that he was dragging a claw hammer along the bare floorboards.
Despite the fact that the kid could have been no older than six, Nicol was terrified.
He waited until the kid was inside the room that seemed to be a part of his patrol, then crept past, pressing himself firmly into the wall around the corner.
The kid came back out, but didn’t seem to have noticed him.
For a second, he wondered what was in the room that made it so important that it had to be guarded, despite the chaos that was ensuing downstairs.
But then he realised that his curiosity wasn’t worth ending up the same way as Laverick had.
When the kid had his back to him again, he edged over to the stairs.
A thick trail of blood led down the stairs.
He bent down and saw that the dummy kid was standing by the front door.
A gleaming hatchet was clenched tight in his tiny hands.
His jaw occasionally jumped up and down, the disturbing laugh echoing around the staircase.
There was no way in hell Nicol was risking an encounter with him.
He knew for a fact that he wouldn’t make it.
The sight of the kid made his bladder void itself down his leg.
His stomach was doing cartwheels.
No, he’d have to find another way out.
He saw a thick curtain at the end of the corridor that ran alongside the stairs.
He moved cautiously towards this, aware that there were probably more of the creepy kids hiding in the gloom.
The curtains arrived without anyone jumping out on him, for which he was perpetually grateful.
The cold wet feel of Laverick’s blood against his belly made his stomach churn even more.
He wasn’t sure how long he could carry the head for.
It was seriously creeping him out.
What the hell am I even going to do with it? He thought and almost set it down there and then.
But something made him keep hold of it, despite his misgivings and the creeping dread and nausea it inspired in him.
He pulled the curtains back carefully, aware that a tell-tale shaft of light could give him away if any of the kids were watching.
He almost had a coronary when a grinning male toddler with one hand over his eyes jumped out on him shouting, ‘Peepo.’
The sunlight was like needles in his retinas after the utter darkness of the house but he could make out the mottled patches of rotten flesh on the kid’s face and neck.
Also the blood dripping from the scalpel that glinted in his hand.
Nicol couldn’t move fast enough to avoid the blow altogether and the blade carved a deep furrow in his forearm.
The kid came for him, slashing again.
Nicol noticed that the window opened out onto a small section of the extension’s roof.
He could get out through there.
His relief soon vanished when he saw that it had been nailed shut in dozens of places.
But what was worse was the scene in the kitchen; a pale, blood-covered man standing over the cooker hobs, clearly wedging the controls down to allow gas to fill the kitchen.
Nicol couldn’t believe his eyes and he struggled to understand what the man was doing, but it suddenly fell into place when he saw him reaching for a pack of kitchen matches.
Holy shit, he’s gonna blow the place up, Nicol thought.
All thoughts of secrecy were replaced with urgency.
If he didn’t get out of here he was going to be consumed in a fireball.
That terrified him almost as much as the idea of the creepy kids getting their hands on him.
The kid’s scalpel blade tore through his stomach.
Nicol grunted and tried to blot out the pain.
Then he closed his eyes, and ran at the window.
On his way, he stuck his free arm out and the force of the collision pulled the kid along with him.
Behind him he heard footsteps as another of the kids came to see what he was doing.
Before he knew what was happening he was flying through the glass, his body torn in dozens of places.
The kid landed bellyfirst on the scalpel blade, sending blood racing across the flat roof.
A split-second later, Nicol landed in a heap beside him, just in time to see the man in the kitchen snap a match and go for another.
Out here the stench of gas was thick in the air.
It was obvious the place would go off like a bomb when the flame hit it.
He ran to the side of the extension furthest from the kitchen and dived off.
After what felt like an eternity, he landed in a battered, bloody heap on the grass below.
His body ached and he was certain he’d broken one of his ankles, possibly his leg, but he knew that to dwell on it was surely to invite death.
He pulled himself to the fence, and managed to summon the energy to clamber over it, dropping to the other side in a bloody haze of pain.
His roll down the hill began just as the explosion hit Laverick’s house and sent chunks of it shooting off in every direction.
In spite of his horror at the situation, he made sure not to damage Laverick’s skull.
He knew that this was worth protecting, even if he didn’t presently know why.
He dropped off the edge of the lawn and landed behind a wall that was high enough to offer some shelter.
Instinctively, he kept low and pressed his body into the wall and it was undoubtedly this that saved him from being nailed with chunks of flying masonry.
He closed his eyes, praying that he survived.
Chunks of brickwork smashed into the patio around him like falling meteors.
He kept expecting one to make its mark in his skull, smash it into bloody pulp, but he was amazed to find that he had survived.
When the hail of projectiles ceased, he rose to his feet and shuffled off towards his car, eager to hide the severed head before the authorities converged upon the scene.
He’d parked around the corner from Laverick’s, keen to avoid being seen by the doctor on his approach.
This turned out to be wise as the spot where he’d have parked was now full of fallen debris.
He smiled up at the heavens for this piece of good fortune.
The front seat of his car was the most comfortable thing he had ever encountered in his life, but depressing the pedals soon took any joy out of his journey.
His right shin was ablaze with agony and it seemed like part of the bone was poking through the flesh.
Still, he knew he could not be caught with Laverick’s head.
So he did his best to drive, gritting his teeth against the pain.
Next chapter is here