Everything stank of chicken shit and everything tasted of chicken shit. Tom needed the money and even though the pay rate was well below what it should be, he needed something to pay for his booze and weed. Plus , he couldn’t argue, with his police record, and what he was doing was illegal. But it’s a job, it’s money. When the guy came asking in the pub if i fancied a job, cash in hand, no references, they jumped at the chance.  transport there and back, cash at the end of everyday. No Job Centre interference, so still get the dole. Perfect. The six of them jumped at the chance. Funnily enough, though Tom, I haven’t seen John this morning. Probably got so stoned after the overtime he put in last night. Lucky bugger.

When they first turned up to farm, they thought it would be salad picking or some such. However they were all bundled into  a covered trailer, driven slowly by the tractor to god knows where. the farmer explained we were to feed and clean up, spray down the battery hens kept in the massive warehouse. apparently someone said it was illegal and he got told to fuck off then. He went back on the trailer, never saw him again. Tom couldn’t give a shit. Just fucking chickens, horrible beady eyed things  They don’t call em fowl for nothing, the farmer said.

Each of the warehouses had numbers, and Tom looked after number 9. This was his sixth or seventh week and even though he hated it, they paid him on the nose every week, no delays. He still had not got used to the smell and it seemed to take longer and longer to wash it off afterwards. He had a quick brew and started changing into his ‘ contamination suit’ as he called it. It always reminded him of a horror movie he’d seen. Every day the suits and wellingtons were ready for him, white, sparkling and shiny. And everyday they came back covered in mud, sawdust, blood and chicken shit. It seemed to stick worse as the day went on. Once the day was finished it all went in a big plastic bin to be taken away and washed, but tom thought, probably burnt. He was always surprised how clean the farm seemed. Most farms he seemed to visit had various piles of useless crap knocking about the yard, but not here.

He zipped the suit up, pulled the wellies on , then the gloves, making sure they were sealed at the wrist. He then put the breathing mask on. They had been told never to take it off in the chicken rooms. “ The air will shred your lungs and the parasites ‘i’ll eat what’s left if they get in there!!” The farmer had said when he first arrived. He was right. The rooms were thick with chicken dust, like a bird fog. He never wanted that stuff in his lungs. The spray pump was already prepared as usual. He pulled it onto his back, adjusting the harness to make it comfortable.  He pumped the  side handle, to build up pressure for the adjustable spray lance, and tried the trigger to test it. A fine spray of unknown chemicals  fired into the air.

He pulled back the plastic dividers and and gently opened the door to his allotted chicken house. The room was about 20 feet long and 10 foot wide. every single bit of floor space was filled with pale white chickens. He gently pushed some aside with his foot so he could enter and closed the door behind him. Bright , hot neon lights burned and hummed. Dust particles floated thick in the air and the noise of the chickens constant clucking and squawking was almost deafening. Because there was no natural light, everything seemed to have an orange glow , including the poor chickens. Some had feathers, some had hardly any, victims of the bigger birds attacks on the weakest, creating the pecking order”. Some limped, some just sat on the floor as the others scrambled over them. Ankle deep in chicken soup ben always thought, no sign of his feet as they seemed to swarm around him. he hated the way they all turned to look at him when he entered the room. 1000 plus red beady eyes all staring in his direction. Something about it really creeped him out.

He gave the side handle another few pumps to build pressure and started spraying the chickens liberally. The fine spray covered floated in the air , coating chickens . lights and ben. Feathers stuck to him as he started his walk from one side of the cabin to the other, trying as carefully as he could to push them out of his way as he walked around. Som jumped up at him and it always made him jump when they screeched so loudly. He turned round once he had reached on end of the room He started the spray gun again but nothing happened. He checked the nozzle with his free hand, momentarily losing concentration on his surroundings.

That’s when felt the crunch under his foot. Then the awful shriek.

Ben looked up to the roof. “Shit” he muttered under his breath. He then looked at his feet and slowly lifted his foot to see a broken, bloody body of a almost featherless chicken. It was one of the weak ones, and small bones punctured out of its body , small smeared drops of blood.on its pale prickly skin. It lay twitching and blinking, its head at a weird angle. It seemed to be trying to to cluck, but blood pooled out of its mouth onto the sawdust covered floor. It was still alive, barely and Ben knew what he had to do. “Sorry pal” he said as he raised his foot to stamp on its head.

Before he had chance, though, he realised, it had gone quiet apart from a couple of clicks here and there. The chicks all seemed to look at the dying body on the floor. Then, a couple of the chickens pecked at Ben’s raised wellington. The noise seemed to rise slowly, louder and louder. Then, without any warning masses of the feathered creatures launched themselves at the broken bird on the floor. Ben stood back,as they ripped into the corpse, shredding it as it screeched and they screeched . feather flew in the air, chickens jumped on top of each other , fighting to get to the fresh meat  in a feeding frenzy. Blood and bone and innards flew around , the sawdust underneath becoming soaked in the birds remains. It was all over in what seemed like seconds to Ben, as he looked on horrified. He remembered the former telling them that chickens were cannibals now. How they would eat any one of the other chickens if possible. They would pretty much eat anything they put in front of them, but the loved mice and worms and each other the best, the farmer had joked.

The chickens scratched and clawed at each other until the only evidence any animal had been on the ground was lumps of clotted , pink sawdust, crimson splattered feathers and small red chunks hanging off Ben’s wellington. The birds then settled down into the usual hum and clucking, as if nothing at happened.

Ben shivered to himself. “ fucking things” he said to himself, still not quite able to forget the noise of the screeching, dying chicken from his head. He continued on , spraying the birds , up and down the hangar, especially careful this time not to stand on any of the creatures. The occasional bird pecked at the remains stuck to his boot, excitedly clucking, but he half pushed , half kicked them out of the way with a series of “fuck offs” and extra dose of spray.

The spray pack was getting lighter and  Ben could tell he had been in the place too long now. His extra care had taken up time and spray solution . He found himself at the far end of the hangar, realising he would have to walk back now and fill up again. Normally, one session would do, but time had got away with him thanks to the chicken crushing incident. Not that the farmers gave a shit about dead chickens, but they would be pissed if he went back for another refill. Bollocks to it , he thought, I’ll get away with it today. He started walking back to the exit, chickens watching and moving like a feathered soup around his feet. He sprayed in small spurts as he walked back, feeling the air in the canister as he emptied it.

Losing concentration and just eager to get out, he managed to pump the gun a bit too much and got his rubber glove caught in the trigger.”Ow! Shit!” he yelped as it pinched the skin under the glove. He grabbed the trigger with his free hand and tried to get his hand released but the trigger jammed. He could feel it cutting into his hand. “Bloody thing!” He exclaimed through gritted teeth.

The chickens looked on. Quietly clucking.

In his temper to get the gun unstuck from his hand he didn’t see the sticky sawdust  remains from the previous chicken massacre. As he kicked some of the chickens away, concentrating on his hand , his boot stood on some slimey intestinal remains and he slipped, feet in the air and slamming into the ground with a bang. sawdust and feathers plumbed into the air, creating a gritty cloud.

The chickens turned heads and red eyes. Cluck. Cluck.

Ben sat up with a start, creating another cloud of feathery dust. His goggles were covered in a fine layer of sawdust and he pulled them up. His mask had come off and he had sawdust on one side of his face. “Urgh, oww, aggg” he coughed and spat the grime out of his mouth. He then realised that the gun had come free from his hand , tearing the glove and cutting a deep gouge into the bottom of his hand. Blood trickled down his sleeve, shocking him at first due to the contrast against the white suit.

The birds clucked. Moved. Heads twitching. Eyes blinking.

As Ben tried to get up. one of the birds pecked at his bloody hand. “ Fuck off” he shouted, and punched it away.

Another chicken went for his hand. Then a couple more. He started pushing them and kicking them out of the way. But more birds started pecking at his hands and his other hand. Then his legs. Then his arms. More beaks stated pinching at his suit. As he tried to get up, the white mass seemed to swarm towards him. Some jumped at him as he waved his arms about, suddenly the feathered soup started digging into the rubber of his boots hundreds of beaks pecking holes through the rubber. They stabbed at his bleeding hand. They stabbed at his other hand. The blood stirring them up now. As Ben tried in vain to reach the exit he slipped again, landing on his chest, crushing birds beneath him, they screeched and pecked furiously at him, his suit slowly turning pink from the hundreds of tiny pin pricks from razor sharp beaks and claws. The screeching filled Ben’s ears as the birds swarmed all over him , the thick white mass digging , clawing , screeching gouging deeper into his flesh. he tried to scream but his mouth was full of sawdust and feathers and he just choked as the bird’s weight crushed him to the ground. He could feel his back, cold for a moment as the birds ripped his clothes, then searing agonising pain as the dug deeper and deeper into his soft flesh. The the sawdust under him seemed to grow darker and darker as blood soaked up from his ripped up body. He tried in vain to lift his head and reach the door , opening his mouth to scream. But a chicken grabbed his tongue with its beak, pulling at it like a worm, inviting more birds to stab and scratch until it was a bloody pulp. They punched holes in his cheeks and ripped at his hair, pulling and twisting it around in a screaming, feeding frenzy.

His body in tatters as they dug to the bone, he watched them fight over red chunks, pain overcoming him, blood soaking his face. He lifted his head as the birds finally covered his pulped bloody body before he drowned in pink feathers and sticky sawdust. He looked at one of the birds, its red eyes blinking, head twitching from side to side. He finally succumbed as the pain became too much, just as the bird punctured his eyeballs in a furious repeated peck.

They don’t call them fowl for nothing was his last thought as everything went deep red.


Bus Stop

It was a cold and rainy night, again. It seemed to Ben that it had been like that since October. As soon as the clocks change , the weather gets grim and the damp, condensation filled bus rides begin. The same, blank, pale faces at the town centre Bus Stop. All lined up ,outside the abandoned Chinese restaurant. It reminded Ben of some kind of post apocalyptic nightmare he’d seen in a computer game. The same people leaving the office block opposite (no doubt earning a hell of a lot more than him). The extended roof of the restaurant kept the rain off him. Ben stared at his watch hoping, for once, the bus would be on time.
No such luck.
About 20 mins late, it turns up, the orange Neon 20 sign like a beacon of hope , promising home, warmth, food and TV. The usual stream of people bustling to get on. All resigned to the familiar process of the Bus journey, hoping to at least get a seat. Ben zapped his bus pass , gave a thank you to the miserable ( as usual) bus driver and climbed the stairs to find a seat. Luckily, his favourite, right at the front was free. Looking out of the windscreen , the journey was always much better in summer. In winter, it was a very different story. The condensation, harsh neon bus lights and generally grubby windows meant all you could see was your own reflection. He looked around to make sure he wasn’t standing on a discarded sandwich or something. He took a quick glance at the attractive girl a couple of seats further down from him and sat down. Taking out his phone, he checked the time, picked a podcast and pressed play. He pulled his hat down and slumped further down his seat and settled in for the 50 minute home.
As the bus crawled through the rush hour traffic, Ben could hardly make out what was going on outside . Apart from a snake of red brake lights flickering on and off into the distance. He could feel his eyelids drooping, tired and exhausted. The vibration of the bus, the blowing heaters , the monotony. These all combined to make Ben nod off to sleep…..
….then wake with a jolt!!! A feeling of horror, not being able to see or recognise where he was. Disoriented, panic rising as it felt like he’d been asleep for hours, unable to see anything out of the windows. Slowly, through squinted eyes and closer inspection, familiar landmarks passed him by. He wiped the heavy condensation off the window and could tell he was halfway home. Thank god, he thought and chuckled to himself. He stretched his arms and legs. He noticed the attractive girl was still on the bus , and smiled to himself. He pushed himself down into his coat again. Rocked by the motion and gentle hum of a diesel engine, succumbed to tiredness again.
Ben woke with a start, again. The awful, momentary feeling of having no idea where he was. Taking a few seconds to adjust, his senses came back online like an old computer. His podcast had finished. He had no idea what time it was. Wracked with a sense of dread that he had missed his bus stop, he tried in vain to wipe the window clean.
That’s when he realised that the bus was silent . The hum of the engine gone. “ Bugger!” he said under his breath, “ I’m at the station!”. He could not see a thing outside as he got up out of his seat, hoping to see the girl , but the bus was empty. “ Fucking Hell!!” he exclaimed as he realised he had missed his stop, and started planning his trip back as he walked down the stairs. He slipped on the last step, landing on the damp floor with a thud. “Bollocks!”, he shouted. He pulled himself up with his now damp and muddy hands.
He looked around and realised the bus was completely empty. He looked in the driver’s compartment, but he had gone as well. Shit!, they’ve locked me in, he thought. He took his phone out of his pocket and tried to ring home. No answer as usual so he tried to call his wife. Still no answer. He wondered why he even bothered paying for phone. He then noticed a leaflet with a number for passenger information. He dialled again, no answer and then the signal cut out. “Fuck, fuck FUCK!!” he shouted out loud.
It was then, as he walked to the front of the bus, he realised that he wasn’t at a station. It was parked up at a bus stop with a shelter and a flickering light. Trees like cut out black paper shapes seemed to surround the bus on the horizon. No other lights on the road, no houses, no cars, endless darkness beyond the neon halo of the bus stop. No sign of life anywhere.
Panic started to set in as Ben tried to figure out what to do next. He tried the door , but it wouldn’t open. He walked up and down the wet sticky floor of the bus,. The bus seemed to fill with condensation. The dull orange interior lights seemed oppressive and hot. Ben became more and more agitated. Right, he thought, I’ll have to break a window. He removed his backpack, noticing how sticky his hands had become after slipping on the floor. Bloody pop or something, he thought. As he fumbled with his backpack, he was startled to see a figure sat at the bus stop. hood up, Head down, hands in pockets, deep in shadow.
Ben banged on the window of the bus to get the figures attention, but no reaction. “ Hey! HEY!” he shouted “ Can you help me? I’ve missed my stop and the bus driver has locked me in!”
Ben thought he recognised the coat. He realised it was the girl he had noticed earlier, but with the fur lined hood up over her head . He banged harder on the window this time and the figure seemed to stir. Ben still could not see a face but was convinced it was the girl. She then stood up, and walked towards the back of the bus. he followed her around to the back window. It was then he noticed something on the seat of the bus stop. At first, he thought it was the girls hand bag. Then a jolt of absolute terror ran through him as he realised it was the bus driver’s head.
“oh god, oh god”, he thought.
He put his hand to his face, realising that the floor of the bus wasn’t covered in mud or pop. It was sticky, slimy sweet smelling blood. He stumbled back onto the rear seat, sweating and muttering with terror. The bus door hissed open and the figure stepped onto the bus. The girl walked towards Ben, who was now frozen with horror. Long, bony fingers now lifted out of the pockets, sharp and blood stained at the tips. She lifted her hooded, fur lined hood up. Ben could see her pale face and the dark empty sockets where her eyes should have been. He could smell coppery tinged breath as she opened her impossibly wide mouth. Full with irregular, bloody sharp teeth.
“You’ve missed your stop,”she hissed as her fingers reached into his eyes and mouth………