My short stories

The Preacher

A strange story!

A short story by Paul Hurley

The bible thumper on his soapbox drew the attention of Andy and Margaret as they walked through the park. They had driven into town in order to collect the German currency for their long awaited holiday. Normally they would have walked on ignoring the pleas to stop and listen, why waste time on a crackpot? They were eager to get home and get packed.

The man was the usual type one saw on soapboxes, unkempt in the sort of socialist manner that said, 'I am only scruffy because God's work is more important than appearance'.
       "The demons from the pit will come amongst us to prepare the way," said the man passionately. The couple stopped to listen.
     "Let me tell you, seek God before it's too late. The time is drawing near, not only the Lord, but Satan himself is looking forward to this day and it draws nearer my friends, nearer than you think."

The small gaggle in front of him remained unusually silent. No youths shouted childish words of ridicule; no adults shouted argumentative questions. This was strange, thought Andy. He too felt different, he had no urge to argue or even walk off and Margaret was listening avidly and clinging on to his arm.
      "The Bible says, the Lord will return amongst us. But remember this you sinners. The foul acolytes of Hell are also waiting. In hell as in heaven they wait, the demons and the angels, your mortal soul is in danger.

With that, the man quietly gathered up his belongings, piled them onto an old pram and shambled off.      
      "That man frightened me," said Margaret, holding Andy's arm tightly. It was a bright sunny day in a relatively busy park, how could a nut case have this effect on them?  They set off in the direction of the car, walking through the bright sunshine; they felt only an icy chill, a coldness that the sun could not penetrate.
Andy Phoenix was a successful businessman, tall and slim, good-looking with an air of authority. They lived comfortably, like his wife Margaret, he was thirty-five years of age and they had been married for eleven years. This holiday had been planned for some time. They wanted to travel through Germany, stopping at small hotels on the way. Andy was interested in the history of Germany especially during the war years and on their travels they would visit places of interest. 

 Margaret was happy with her life, Andy was able to provide a good lifestyle and she loved him dearly. A small woman who could be described as plump and plain, she had remained at home whilst Andy was the breadwinner. Earlier in the marriage they had tried for children but it was not to be. Although they had been married for 11 years, she believed that the spark had not gone. Because of Andy's business, they had not been on holiday for a long time, last time it was a package holiday in Spain. Since then Andy had worked hard and his Electro plating company had gone from strength to strength. He could now employ a manager to oversee things and it is for this reason that they could take this holiday.
She was determined to enjoy herself and make the most of it.

 The preacher had affected her more than she thought though, why was she still thinking about him when she had so much else to occupy her mind? Why had they stopped and listened to him, he had cast a shadow over a time that should have been extra special and she hated him for it. She shrugged and tried to relegate the thoughts to the very back of her mind where they belonged. Nothing would put a dampener on this holiday. She appreciated that not having children may have made her a little selfish, but why shouldn't she have the best. Andy had earned it!  

Andy, too, was thinking the same things.  No, that was stupid, the man was a nutter, just one of the many who preached in parks all over the country. He cast the thoughts from his mind; he didn't believe in devils and demons, in fact, he didn't believe in God either. Religion was for sad people who needed something to cling on to, that was not he. He enjoyed life to the full and didn't need to listen to 'god botherers' of any faith.

      "I'm just nipping out for a drink love," he called, as he put on his coat.

Andy knocked gently on the door and almost immediately his new manager opened it. She was a single, intelligent and attractively slim brunette. As she had done many times before, she welcomed him with open arms.

He returned home at midnight and had the usual swig of whisky from the hip flask in the car prior to going up to bed.

The following day, they drove down to the coast and used the Eurotunnel train for the first time. After the quick journey under the channel, they had Europe spread out before them. They set off for Germany.

 Their last stop before the German border was Liege in Belgium where they pulled in at a service station.
      "I need the loo," said Margaret climbing from the car. Andy walked with her towards the restaurant building.
      "There's another one of those preachers, "Margaret said pointing, "I didn't know they had them here as well."
They had to pass quite close by him and noticed that he was speaking in English. They stopped and joined the small group of silent watchers in front of him. He was dressed in the same way as street preachers in England, but why out here was he speaking in English?
      "The evil will precede the good, as described in the bible, the dead will rise," Margaret had that same feeling that she could not understand, a feeling of dread.
     "What will the evil dead do then, they won't be allowed into heaven, but they will rise, believe me, they will rise."
Andy dragged her away, "I don't want to listen to anymore of that crap," he said albeit not too convincingly. He had also had that strange feeling of dread, a dark feeling that he had never experienced before.  

They reached Aachen and booked into a small hotel for the night, the following morning they would head through the Eifel forest towards Bavaria. The next morning the weather was fine and they spent a bit more time than anticipated in Aachen. That’s what holidays are for thought Andy, especially one like this when you can come and go as you please. He even managed to get away and phone his manager in private to see how things were going back home!

They set off at 3.30pm in the afternoon, both were in high spirits and Margaret started to sing a Beatles song, Andy joined in and they were both singing. 'We all live in a yellow submarine,’ as they passed through the lush German countryside. Despite his extra curriculum activity, Andy was enjoying himself, he did care for Margaret and they had a good relationship. Despite the ups and downs they were good mates and enjoyed each other’s company.

After stopping at a service station, it was getting dark when they set off. The roads were quite busy, but as time went on, the traffic eased, soon they were travelling through wooded farmland. Margaret sitting beside Andy suddenly sensed that something was not quite right, that feeling of fear was coming back to her. She looked at Andy and instinctively knew that the feeling was mutual. There was an air of apprehension in the car that neither could explain.

Andy had dismissed the feelings that he was experiencing, those damned preachers had spooked him. He was a man, the man of the house and he was not afraid.
Strange he thought there were headlights right behind us and they have gone now. He looked in the mirror and the road behind them was straight, with no side roads, had a car been there he would have seen the headlights. They had disappeared, just the empty road and the darkness. 

Suddenly Margaret called out in fear.
      "I just saw some yellow eyes looking at us," She moved nearer to Andy.
      "Don’t be silly love," said Andy, "it will have been an animal." By now they were travelling through the forest and it was dark. Theirs was the only car on the road, there were no headlights behind them nor rear lights in front, just darkness and the beam from their headlight.

This beam illuminated the trees on either side making it seem as if they were travelling through a tunnel of trees, trees that could hide all sorts of nightmares. Now it was Andy's turn, he saw glinting out of the darkness, the most evil yellow eyes. They both saw them, on either side of the road, at intervals there were yellow pairs of feral eyes, what sort of head those eyes were set in, they could only guess at.

Andy instinctively put his foot harder on the accelerator, he was not frightened, and they were only wild animals. He said nothing; he did not believe himself, so how could he expect Margaret to believe him. She was almost sitting on the handbrake as she drew closer to him. The smell of pure fear was permeating the interior of the car.

 Something outside was waiting for them, he sensed it and so did she.

He was, at first, so engrossed in his thoughts that he hardly noticed that the car did not increase in speed; in fact it seemed to be slowing down, now he was really frightened. The headlights still shone lighting up the stygian blackness, but the car was slowing.  Those evil eyes seemed to be getting brighter, drawing them in.

The car rolled to a halt at the side of the road and the headlights dimmed to a soft glow. There were no other vehicles, they were alone, just the two of them sitting together in the confines of the car, outside the forest rose up around them like a shroud. Within it prowled unspeakable nightmares.

 "What will the evil dead do then, they won't be allowed into heaven, but they will rise, believe me they will rise."

 Outside was blackness, the slight moonlight making it worse as the trees rustled and cast shadows, and the eyes. They were peering at them from between the trees, yellow burning soulless eyes, eyes that were the embodiment of evil.

A car was approaching, thank God thought Andy; there is traffic on this road after all. The car slowed down as it reached them and stopped directly in front of them. It was a large grey old-fashioned American car. The headlights were turned off and as Andy started to open the door to go to it, the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end.

In the dark interior of the car he could just make out two black forms with glowing yellow eyes, there were headlights stopping behind them now. One by one, the window glass in their car simply fell to the ground leaving them exposed to the icy chill and the dank smell of the forest. Overriding even this smell was the rotting sweet smell of death. As they huddled together the eyes drew closer and seconds before they died; they saw the black putrid bodies of the things of the night. The things that had risen from the earth and come to this place together, this was the start of the end.

"The demons from the pit will come amongst us to prepare the way".  
Copyright Paul Hurley
April 2003
First British Serial Rights offered
1,957 words

The Troubles.

Fortunately now no more.

A short story by
Paul Hurley

John and Maeve had lived in the house on the Garvaghy Road in County Down, Northern Ireland, throughout their marriage and had brought up both children there. They had always managed to keep the troubles from their door, despite seeing, like the rest of their neighbours, the troops on the streets and hearing plenty of sirens, and worse, the occasional distant bang as a bomb went off.
      "Shane, come away from the street and get yer tea," shouted Maeve Dougherty to her son from the rear of the terraced house, it was the marching season again. The streets were not the place to be. Her son Shane was seventeen, and like most of his age group, unemployed and unemployable. Her husband John worked at a Portadown garage as a fitter, and they had one daughter, Carmel, who was 12 years old and attended the local Catholic school. Carmel was the clever one, it was Carmel who would do well and make her parents proud. She did’nt hang around with the rougher elements as her brother did, she was too busy studying.

        "Get yerself in here," shouted Maeve again. Shane came meekly into the house. God knows, she thought, it was hard enough keeping your kids on the straight and narrow here without the damned Orange marching season being on again.

       "And where have you been?" she asked him accusingly, "I've told you to keep away from the Polis and the Brits."
      "Don’t worry Ma, I can look after myself."
She was not reassured. "Your Da will be home in a bit and I want us to sit down, as a family, like the god-fearing people we are."

 The back door rattled as John Dougherty pushed his bike into the back shed. "Only me," he shouted, and walked into the kitchen taking off his donkey jacket. "Is tea ready?"

       "Soon will be love, did you get through OK?"

       "Yeah, damned troops everywhere. Hi son, how's things?" he said as he saw Shane sitting at the table. "No sign of a job?"

        "Neh, it's not worth looking any more," said Shane dejectedly.

       "So long as you behave yourself, we've managed this long and it's the cease-fire that we have now."

       "Don’t worry Da, I'll be alright."

They had just sat down to dinner when Carmel came in and joined them.

      "How was school?" asked Maeve looking proudly at her young daughter.

      "OK I suppose," she replied. Carmel was a pretty girl and very clever. She wanted to be a lawyer when she left school and her exam results indicated that she had a very good chance.

After the meal, Carmel got Shane to one side.

      "What the fec have ye been up to?" she whispered.

      "What do you mean?" replied Shane.

      "Sure I heard that ye'd been chased by the Polis in a stolen car."

      "Might have been," he answered arrogantly, "didn't fecking catch me though, did they? Spose you're going to tell Da?"

She ignored him and walked off in disgust.

That evening they sat watching the television. Coronation Street had just started when there was a knock at the door. As usual, it was John who got up to answer it.
      "Shane Dougherty?" said the quiet spoken man at the door. John knew instinctively what organisation this quiet man belonged to and he was very frightened. The second much larger man simply stood next to him in the doorway.

      "What do you want him for?" asked John.

      "The army council has decreed that he is to be punished, we have our job to do."

      "He’s just a child," said John pleadingly.

      "Might just be a fecking child," said the second man,"but he's old enough to steal fecking curs."

John was taken aback; he never suspected that Shane would do anything like that.
The first man stood there in his smart suit, he was small and good-looking in a mean sort of way. John noticed that he was even wearing brown leather gloves. The big man moved forward pushing John to one side as he walked up the hall. This could not happen, John didn't know what they were going to do with Shane, but it would not be nice whatever it was.

      "Please lads," begged John, "we are Catholic and attend Mass, is it not the proddies that ye should be going after?"

      "You know the rules," replied the small man. "Criminals have to be punished."

They had reached the front room now and saw the family sitting round the TV. Shane realising that they had come for him made a bolt for the back door. The second man was quicker and grabbed him around the waist.

      "Now come on boyo, ye can take yer punishment like a man, what's a bullet in the back of the knees between friends, anyhow."

Shane was going to be crippled for life or worse, John couldn't believe it. "Please no," he begged, "sure he's only a boy, take me."

The men ignored him and propelled Shane towards the door. John couldn't let them take him. He stood in the way preventing them from leaving.

      "Please," he begged vainly.

      "Get out of the fecking way," ordered the big man.

"No," replied John, "I can't let you."
Slowly the quiet man reached into his coat and drew out a small black pistol. He pointed the gun at John and started to speak. As he did so, Maeve ran across to John and there was a loud bang.

John stood there in the silent room, the smell of cordite in his nostrils. He didn't know where he had been shot, nothing hurt. Then Maeve screamed, a horrible blood-curdling scream. John turned around and saw Carmel. She was sliding slowly down the wall, a look of amazement on her face and a neat red hole above her left eye. John turned to the two men from the Provisional IRA punishment squad. The small man still held the gun. He slowly lowered it and fired a second bullet into the front of Shane's knee.

"Sorry missis," he said calmly, "didn't mean to waste your daughter." With that they casually walked out of the house leaving Shane writhing on the floor clutching his shattered knee. Carmel was sitting at the bottom of the wall with her blue eyes wide open, a small trickle of blood running from the hole in her forehead.
The troubles had caught up with them at last. 

Words 1,087
Copyright Paul Hurley
Feb 2003 

The P.C P.C’s.

The script for a cartoon strip poking fun at the Political Correctness within today’s police force.

Butch Lesbian.                   Susan.
Her blonde girlfriend.        Morag
Skinny 4ft 11in wimp        Nigel
Rastafarian                         Leroy
Hetro Hero                         Ted
Crossdresser                       Angela
Gay PC                              Wayne
Gay Inspector                     Inspector
Tough Sergeant                  Sergeant 

The first frame shows five constables sitting around a briefing table with a Sergeant giving the briefing. The first constable is a massive butch policewoman with tattooed hairy arms; she is holding hands with a small blonde policewoman. The second is a male skinny wimp whose face is hardly seen above the table. The third is a Rastafarian with dreadlocks. The fourth is a typical white heterosexual strong fit and good looking male P.C and the fifth is obviously a male PC dressed as a woman, the sixth is a camp homosexual. The sergeant is an old hard-nosed and careworn heterosexual male finding all of this diversity hard to work with.

Sergeant. Tonight, if you all have no objections, we will be going out in the van. 

The door opens and the Inspector walks in. He is totally camp.

Inspector.  Hello sweeties, who’s driving the vanny wan tonight then?

Sergeant.   I’ve chosen Susan tonight Sir. He indicates the butch policewoman and she scowls.

Wayne.  That’s not fair, she drove last night [pouting]. It’s not fair sir, tell him!

Inspector.   Mmmme, Wayne’s right sergeant, we must be fair and they should have equal opportunities you know, she is right!

Sergeant. Continues, exasperated. Sorry, all right, Nigel can drive the van tonight. He indicates the small PC peering over the top of the desk. Can’t upset ‘her’ can we.

Ted. Sarcastically.  Fuck me, that means we’ve got to get the cushions out again!

Sergeant. Alright Ted, sort it will you.

Susan. Why does he have to sort it? Just cause he’s straight you stick together, thereby discriminating against us because we are different.

Sergeant. With a sigh, Sorry Susan, would you care to get the cushions for Nigel and place them on the driver’s seat of the van for him? Susan sits down with a grunt.

Angela.  I could have got the cushions, anyway, I though that all the force vans were being altered at great expense to accommodate vertically challenged officers?

Sergeant exasperated. Could we get on please.

Inspector. An old lady, not that it matters that it was a lady, it could have been anyone and we would react the same, it could have been……!

Ted butting in.  What about this old lady Sir?

Inspector.  Yes, sorry about that guy’s, it was a slip up,  I shouldn’t have said old lady. An age challenged person has been mugged in the High Street. Get out there now and see what is going on.

They walk out to the police van in the yard and the sergeant climbs into the passenger seat, Ted lifts Nigel up to the driving seat.

Wayne standing by the passenger side, hand on hip talking to the sergeant. Why should you sit in the front.

Sergeant.  Because Wayne, I’m a fucking sergeant, that’s why.

Susan from the back.  Tell him Wayne, tell him he can’t discriminate and be rankist.

Sergeant. Leaning towards Wayne and speaking quietly. Get into the fucking back you fucking queen or I’ll fucking smack yer. Wayne flounces and minces round to climb into the side door joining the fraggle.rock characters inside.

The van drives off with Susan in the back kissing her blonde girlfriend Morag.
They arrive  and there is an old lady sitting dazed on the footpath. Ted jumps out and runs over to her.

Ted.  What happened.

She manages to mumble, a coloured lad…. Angela leans over Ted’s shoulder.

Angela.   You can’t say that, you can’t say coloured.

Ted.  Sorry about that love, one was black you say, what colour was the other?

Angela.  You can’t call her love, that’s condescending and demeaning to her sex.

Ted exasperated. Go on, what happened.

Old woman.   They threatened me with a knife….

Leroy butting in.  How do you know that they were threatening you, just cause one was black, you automatically assume that they were threatening you. If they had both been white, you wouldn’t have said they were threatening you. They may have had an apple to peel!

The old lady obviously flagging. They prodded me with the knife and demanded my purse.

Leroy.  Oh here we go, it was the black boy who did that I suppose, couldn’t have been the white one could it.

Old woman,  continuing.  The white boy held the knife and the black boy pulled my bag off my shoulder and they ran off.

Ted.  Which way did they go?

The old lady dies.

Sergeant. Right start the search.

All set off in different directions, Susan and Morag holding hands. 4ft 11 inch Nigel and 6ft 4in Leroy, Angela and Wayne and Ted and the Sergeant. They all return to the van and Ted and the Sergeant have two boys fitting the description , one carrying a handbag.

Black boy. We have done nothing, were being fitted up.

White boy. (Could be Ratboy!) Get your hands off me you pigs, that’s assault that is. You’ve got no evidence, I’ll tell my dad. As he is talking a knife falls out of his trousers. Prove it; prove it that’s all.

Nigel, looking up at the sergeant fearfully. He’s right there is no evidence.

Leroy. Here we go again, picking on the brothers.

Angela. We’ll have to let them go.

Ted.  What about the handbag?

White boy. It’s me mams.

Ted,  opening the handbag and taking out a driving licence. Is your mam called Baroness Fisher of Barnton?

White boy. Yeh, Mrs Barnton.

The Inspector turns up and instantly takes an unhealthy interest in the two boys……………To be continued.

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