As a deadly virus rampages through the country, lockdown has become a way of life for Vin and the rest of his community. Then, one night, Vin’s friend Jeffery visits to share the terrifying truth behind the lockdown. Could it be that there’s something even worse lurking in the streets outside Vin’s house?
(22 minute read)

This story was written during July of 2021 and is exclusive to this site.

Vin tensed at the sound of knocking coming from his front door. The night had been quiet—naturally—the peace interrupted by nothing more than the tapping of his fingers on the keyboard. He had grown used to barely seeing people, and hearing them almost as rarely. He stopped typing, lifting his hands from the keyboard, and waited to hear if the sound came again. If it didn’t, he would ignore it and assume it was a mistake, and then carry on with his work. If it came a second time, he supposed he would have to answer it.

The knocking came again.

Vin slid his chair back, still debating whether he should even answer the door or not. He crossed his small study and padded down the hallway to the front door, taking his time, almost challenging the would-be visitor to try a third time. Perhaps it was important? The frosted glass embedded in his front door revealed the mottled shadow of a person, their shape thrown in fuzzy relief by the street lamps standing across the street, but betrayed nothing of their purpose.

Vin opened the door a crack, allowing the cool night air to push its way into the house, and took a cautious glance at who—or what—was waiting outside.

“Jeffery?” he said, even though he immediately recognised the person standing at his door. Jeffery was his drinking partner; every Friday night they would get together, alternating who would choose and supply the night’s whisky. It had begun as a neighbourly thing, but over the last year it had grown into more of a detached friendship; an understanding of one another … at least until recent months. Until the lockdown.

“You shouldn’t be here, Jeffery,” Vin said, his common sense struggling against his better manners to open the door fully and invite him in. “We’re in lockdown. Go— ”

“Just let me in,” Jeffery said. Vin was about to repeat his protest, but the words choked in his throat when he saw the haunted look in Jeffery’s eyes. He released his hold on the door and let it swing open. Jeffery strode in past him, trailing a miasma of chilled air in his wake as he pulled his jacket off and threw it down on the bench standing the hallway wall. “You got something to drink?”

“It’s not—“ Vin stopped himself, realising that Jeffery probably already knew it wasn’t Friday. Or, maybe he didn’t. Time in lockdown had started to lose all meaning: one day was identical to the next. Maybe no one could tell what day it was any more, or if it even mattered. “Just one, Jeffery, then you really should go. We could both get fined, or—”

“Or what?” Jeffery said, staring keenly at his host, who met his gaze for a moment before turning away to pour the drinks. “You think you’ll get it, Vin? I tell you, you won’t. I know what’s going on now. That’s what I came here to tell you, you need to hear this.”

Vin paused before handing Jeffery his whisky, wondering if he was making an idiotic mistake. In the last weeks before lockdown, when it looked increasingly certain that the virus would reach their shores, Jeffery had started to share more and more of his conspiracy theories. It was as if the sense of impending menace threatening to overwhelm them all had tipped Jeffery’s anxiety levels. His grip on logic and common sense had foundered, and his awareness that Vin was perhaps not the best audience for his rants had been effectively non-existent. Vin had taken to nodding politely while doing his best to steer the conversation elsewhere and, in truth, had found it a relief when the lockdown had finally ended their Friday night sessions.

“You see, I know the truth now. I know it!” Jeffery said, taking his whisky, draining it, and holding the freshly emptied glass out for refill. “It’s all lies, everything they’re telling us. Just like I said. Listen …”

Jeffery walked out of his house, closed the front door behind him and gave the street his usual defiant glare. Cowards! Sheep! Everyone else remained locked inside their homes. Essential outings only?! Well, no one was going to stop him from taking his nightly walk—just let them try. And if anyone wanted to suggest that his nightly walk had only become a regular thing since the lockdown had been imposed on them, well, then he had a few points about personal freedoms ready to share with them.

He tightened the collar of his coat against the cold night air. For just a moment, he contemplated retreating inside to the warmth, to the whisky, to the internet—but, no, this was his time. This was his protest. This was what he took back from the authorities out there intent on trying to control his life.

He started to walk, the usual stew of thoughts occupying his attention. This was his time to process and collate everything that he knew. He knew, for instance, that the virus wasn’t real. He knew that the lockdown was a cover to keep everyone shut away. He knew that any supposed vaccine, when it eventually got announce in a triumphant fanfare, would also be a hoax. He just didn’t know what the endgame was. That was his favourite frustration: he knew the lies, but not what they were covering. Oh, but when he did work it out, oh yes, that was when everybody would find out a thing or two and the people who thought they were pulling the strings would find that Jeffery Campion and anyone who listened to him had managed to find themselves some very large scissors.

He grunted, deciding that the metaphor needed more work, and surveyed the street ahead for other people. There was hardly ever anyone. He didn’t care if someone saw him taking an “illegal” walk at night; anyone taking exception to him was an change for him to help lift the wool from their eyes and show them the—

Wait. There was someone up ahead.

The figure had turned the corner at the far end of the street and was now walking casually towards him. Jeffery maintained his pace, expecting the other person to cross the road away from him. Even on the rare occasions he did see other people out at night they would invariably duck down a side street, as if guilty at being spotted, or they would cross the road to keep their distance, as if they believed the pitiful claims that the virus could carry that easily from person to person. But this person kept their path. Irrationally, Jeffery caught the idea of crossing the road himself forming in his mind and crushed the thought before it could take root.

“Good evening there,” the man said as he got close enough to speak to Jeffery without advertising their presence to the entire street. “Out for a bit of fresh air too, are you?”

“Uh, yes,” Jefferey nodded, a little caught out by the man’s casual and friendly manner.

“Quite, quite. Very good. Gets far too stuffy indoors if you ask me.” The man clapped his gloved hands together to fend off the cold. “Bit of fresh air, the best thing for it if you ask me. Keeping us all shut away indoors; that’s what’ll make us all sick, right?”

“Exactly,” Jeffery answered eagerly. “I mean, if this virus is even— ”

“Real?” The man finished.

Jeffery paused, trying to determine if the man was preparing to question him, or agree with him. Finally he nodded again. “Yes.”

The man removed his right glove, easing it off by the fingers, and held his hand out to Jeffery. “Name’s Clayton.”

Jeffery took the hand after a moment’s pause. What’s going on there? You’re not going to catch a fake virus from this person! “Jeffery.”

“Pleased to meet you Jeffery,” Clayton said, giving his hand a firm and lengthy shake in his slightly moist grasp. After what felt to be a second or two longer than necessary Clayton released him. “You know, they do say that this virus can pass from man to man in a matter of seconds. So, if either of us had it …”

Jeffery made an appropriately dismissive sound.

Clayton beamed. “Just as well it’s not real then, eh?”

“Exactly,” Jeffery said. He was still a little caught out by his strange new friend, but at least he knew they had something in common now. “I mean it’s— ”

“—just a way of keeping us all under control, yes? Exactly. Keep everyone locked away like good little citizens.”

“Exactly,” Jeffery repeated.

“You know, they also say it can cause hallucinations. What balderdash, I say. I can assure you I’m not a hallucination.” Clayton smiled at Jeffery. “And I’ve been out and about most nights and I’ve certainly never seen anything untoward our out of the ordinary.”

They say it affects people differently … the voice in Jeffery’s head piped up. He stamped on the words, but nothing came to take their place. A moment passed where he wanted to ask this man everything he knew, to take the rest of the night if necessary so they could share the things they both understood and work out how to get the message across to people. Then Clayton clapped his hands together with a sense of finality and that moment, too, was crushed.

“Well, better not stand on the street chatting all night—who knows who Old Joe’s got watching us.”

“Right. Of course.”

Clayton leaned closer, close enough to speak confidentially in Jeffery’s ear, close enough for the moistness of his breath to bloom against Jeffery’s face. “But I’m out and about most nights—same time—let’s keep an eye out for each other, eh?”

“Sure,” Jeffery said, intrigued by the possibility of seeing his strange friend again, but momentarily and inexplicably repulsed by the sour tang from his breath.

Then Clayton ducked his head down out of the breeze and walked away without another word.

Jeffery waited for a moment, resisting the temptation to look behind and watch where Clayton went; perhaps to follow him, or perhaps to make sure he was really going away. Eventually he did glance behind, but there was no sign of the man. He resumed his walk, considering the strange mix of feelings that the encounter had produced. There was a certain glee over finding a kindred spirit, but there was something else … a … what was it? The confidence of the man had caught him out. He acted as if he knew what was going on. As if he knew more than Jeffery.

A plant—that was it! A spy. A quisling. He had been sent to find out what Jeffery knew and to have him taken away if they decided he was enough of a threat. The rush of fear passed and was replaced by something else: pride. They were scared of him.

His train of thought was broken by the sight of something moving in the shadows ahead. Another figure lurking in the darkness of an alley by the side of a house. Another spy. He stared at it and the shape dissolved into the shadows. Oh, great, now you’re jumping at shadows.

“Early symptoms can include hallucinations. If you think you’ve …” the government health warnings rattled unbidden inside his head. Of course they were going to make out that seeing things was a symptom; that way they could simply claim you’ve got the virus if you see anything you’re not supposed to see. It was perfect. Everyone locked in their homes, out of the way, and anyone who does see anything—boom! You’ve got the virus, away to hospital with you where we can watch you, and tell you that what you know you saw wasn’t real, and fill you with drugs that will make you behave the way we want you to beha—

Someone was staring at him.

A few houses further up there stood a fresh shadow. Definitely the shape of a person this time—he hadn’t been seeing things before! Jeffery continued walking, trying to watch the figure while keeping his face angled down towards the pavement, hoping not to let on that they had been spotted. He walked closer, closer, and still the figure didn’t move. It waited there, watching Jeffery. Perhaps getting ready to jump out and confront him. Maybe arrest him. Jeffery plotted his cover story: his dog had escaped and he was out looking for it. But why wasn’t he calling its name? Because it was deaf.

Jeffery quickened his pace, almost willing the confrontation to take place now. He risked a sideways glance at the person—it was a man, probably, the pale skin of his face the only properly visible part as the blackness of his coat sank away into the darkness. Whoever it was, they continued to watch Jeffrey as if they were confident he hadn’t seen them. Jeffery kept walking, his pace steady, getting closer, the stranger convinced he was hidden in the shadows between two houses.

One house to go. When there were no more than few metres between them Jeffery broadened his stride, suddenly lunging forward to confront the man before he could slip away. Whatever words he had prepared died instantly in his throat as the figure looked up at him and snarled. The man’s face was pure white, even allowing for the way the dim glow of the street lights desaturated everything. And it wasn’t merely white: it was a luminous glowing white, a glow made all the more dreadful by the bloodshot red eyes that sunk back into hollow sockets. Those red eyes glared at Jeffery with a vicious anger wrought of being caught out and, as the man snarled, Jeffery saw the rows of yellowing fangs that lined its mouth.

And then it was gone, vanishing so swiftly into the night that Jeffery had to wonder if it had been there at all. He clung onto the image, grotesque as it was, refusing to let anyone or anything make him believe that it hadn’t been real.

His mind raced ahead of itself, trying to work out the truth of what he had just seen. It wasn’t a virus, it was vampires, and they were keeping everyone locked away for their own safety. No—that didn’t make sense … except for the part where the powers that be were keeping things from the people. What did it mean?

Early symptoms can include hallucinations …


It was starting to come together. Jeffery began walking again, his pace steady and automatic as his mind worked. He checked the shadows dutifully as he went, alert for more figures hiding in the shadows. None revealed themselves.

They know, he realised, they know that I know. They’re coming for me now, he thought with a thrill. There was no fear in the knowledge; more a sense of triumphant finality that he, alone, would finally be shown the truth. As he continued on his way, piecing together the missing pieces in the puzzle, he became aware of a glow lighting up the sky ahead. It was faint against the constant glare of street lamps and city lights, but there was a clear green tinge. It grew stronger over to his left, past the last house on the street.

Drawn by his own curiosity, Jeffery made his way towards it, leaving the light of the houses behind him. The green glow emerged from a rocky, uninviting patch of land that had been kept aside for some future development. For now it was rubble-strewn and treacherous; earth and rocks piled to the edges as if the clearing out had started, but the money had run out. A token fence ringed the perimeter, but Jeffery suspected it still made an ideal playground for the more daring local children. And an ideal spot for anyone else who wanted to remain out of sight.

He cleared the rise and looked past the rubble down into the hollow that had been carved into the ground. The area was as large as a swimming pool and the green glow emanated from the thing that sat in there. Jeffery rubbed his eyes, trying to process what he was seeing. It was a machine of some sort. It looked like spider: a round, metallic body suspended by an array of legs and crablike arms. As he studied it in disbelief, Jeffery realised what the bizarre, unearthly construction reminded him of: it was a spaceship! It was a god-damned flying saucer!

It’s an invasion! That’s what they’re trying to hide.

Now he saw a line of people snaking away from the ship. Each person seemed entirely unaware of the strange machine that they were approaching. As Jeffery watched, one of the metallic arms from the ship reached out and grabbed the man standing at the front of the line—the man didn’t react at all. The arm lifted him in the air and turned him upside. A second arm then swung over and, with a smooth, efficient motion, sliced the man’s head from his shoulders.

Jeffery gasped, covering his mouth before the shock could escape from it.

The arm suspended the decapitated body over a funnel in the side of the ship, collecting the blood that gushed from its severed neck. When there was no more blood to be collected, the corpse was tossed into another part of the ship. Jeffery couldn’t see what happened there, but the fiery glow that flashed briefly against the night told him enough about how the bodies were disposed of.

He shrank back from the incline, praying that no one on the ship would see or hear him, praying that he wouldn’t end up as just another drugged-out body standing in line. So that was how they were doing it! A ‘vaccine’ to make you obedient while they fed you to their lizard masters. A lockdown and curfew to stop people from stumbling across the truth. And those vampire things on the prowl in case anyone came close.

Jeffery froze.

A white face stared at him from the side of a tree at the far side of the clearing. The figure clung to the tree, hanging upside down like an animal, brutal claws digging into the wood.

Maybe if he remained still …

The vampire didn’t move for a long time. When it finally skittered away Jeffery risked sliding further to the ground, bargaining that the rise of the incline would put him out of sight. He turned and saw another one of those terrible white faces waiting in the street ahead. This one hung onto the side of a house. Jeffery looked to his right, to his escape.
He had to get away. He had to let people now. He had to tell people the truth.

He could make it if he—

Jeffery ran and never looked back.

Vin reached out, refilling the empty glass in Jeffery’s trembling hand for a third time even though he knew better. Jeffery had finished speaking, hopefully signalling that his deranged rant was over at last. Waiting for a response, he looked at Vin, who chose his next words carefully. “Jeffery, what you need to— ”

“You see it now, don’t you?” Jeffery’s eyes were wide and glassy. “I told you they were lying to us, and I’ve seen the proof.

Vin kept his expression neutral. “Jeffery, I …” Any number of variations on ‘I don’t believe you; you need help’ ran through his head before he finally settled on: “I think the best first thing to do is to get tested, that way you can rule out— ”

“So they can get me in a line and drain my blood? Did you just hear what I said? You know what’s been going on: we’ve talked about it. I came here to warn you first. Of all people I thought you would listen. I’m telling you this to … to keep you safe.”

And meanwhile you risked infecting me with the virus? Thanks, Vin thought bitterly, realising that a positive result for Jeffery would mean a likely positive result for him too and weeks of isolation—at best.

“Jeffery you need to—look, they tell us that the first symptom is hallucinations—”

“I know what they say! Of course they say that!” Jeffery stopped and stared at Vin. “You don’t believe me …”

“I’m just saying to you, get tested, rule out the virus, and then we can talk about what you’ve seen and … m-maybe then we can see what there is to be done about it.”

Jeffery put his glass down and stood in Vin’s front room, rigid with anger and frustration. “ The only thing I see is that I made a mistake coming to you. You’ll learn that I’m right. Everyone will learn—but it’ll be too late!” He stormed into the hallway, wrapped his coat around himself and opened the door. Vin followed; intending to open the door for Jeffery like a good host, but the man had already marched out into the night.

Vin watched him go a little regretfully. He had enjoyed Jeffery’s company over the past year and had mostly managed to skirt around his more irrational beliefs, but perhaps it was for the best. Times of hardship often brought out the truth about a person and—

Vin’s passive train of thought died as he noticed the white face staring at him from over the street. It hid in an alleyway that Jeffery had just passed on his way home. Red eyes glared out at him. Vin couldn’t see the rest of the face, but it was easy to imagine the yellowing fangs that Jeffery had already described. Vin stepped carefully back into his house and closed the door, making sure it was locked behind him.

He made a mental note to book a test tomorrow.

But he had seen it. Vin reached for the door again, stopping himself before he could open it and look again whatever it was that lurked out there. He hurried into the front room and peered through the curtains. A second white face now waited at the further end of the street, also in the shadows. They had followed Jeffery! And now they knew that he knew as well and they were coming for him.

Vin rubbed his brow, a feverish sweat had erupted across it. He hadn’t believed Jeffery—of course he hadn’t, it sounded like deranged nonsense—but … he peered through the window again, parting only the tiniest gap in the curtains. The white faces continued to watch him.

Had they moved closer?

He closed the curtains and backed away. Only when he turned did he see the faint green glow oozing into the hallway. The breath stopped in his throat; He knew what this meant, but couldn’t believe it. Step by painful step he went to the kitchen and stared into the garden.

Nothing there. Just darkness.

Except … perhaps a glint of something shining under the moonlight.

Vin shook his head, admonishing himself for imagining things.

And that was when the searchlight sparked into life, flooding the kitchen with its green glow. And inside it, a monstrous metal claw, craning through the air to find him, reaching down from the darkness to take hold of him.

Vin screamed.

— the end —

There are no other editions of this story available at the moment. However, if you would prefer to read this as an ePub please let me know in the comments

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