Thursday, 7 November 2013

The Tooth Fairy

Below is a short story set in the same world as my novella Crash. It shows the collapse of society from the perspective of characters that don't feature in the book. I hope you enjoy it.

The Tooth Fairy

Looking over his shoulder at their burning house, Josh turned to his brother. “Do you think they’re coming back?”
Archie, at seventeen, was three years older than Josh. “I don’t know. Maybe, but it’s been three days, and we can’t wait in a house that’s on fire.”
“So what shall we do?”
“We’ve got to go to Nana’s. If any of our family are still in London, that’s where they’ll be.”
“I think we should stay here.”
“And wait where, Josh? In case you hadn’t notice, they set fire to our fucking house!”
A lump rose into Josh’s throat, and he stared at the floor through blurry eyes. “I dunno. I just want to make sure we’re here when Mum and Dad come back.”
Archie’s words stabbed at his heart. “And what if they don’t come back?”
Before Josh could reply, Archie put a hand on his shoulder. “Get down!”
Hunching with his brother behind a low wall, Josh listened to the sound of the approaching voices. A couple of them were deep like men’s voices, but most of them had the prepubescent squeak of children. Shivering in the cold, Josh looked at his brother, who placed a finger over his closed lips. The accompanying frown told Josh to shut the fuck up.
It was hard to stay quiet with both the cold and adrenaline trying to wobble his body. Stuttered breaths shot out of him and turned to condensation as the voices got closer. He could suddenly hear their conversation.
“Where are we going now, Sam?”
“Back to the shop.”
“But we don’t have any food.”
“I know.”
“Well, what are we going to do about food?”
“Unless you want to fight someone for it, then fuck all. I’m not against having a scrap, but I don’t fancy our chances against fully grown men. We’ll find something tomorrow.”
“But the supermarkets have been picked clean.”
A slapping sound made Josh flinch. The second voice then said, “Ow! What was that for?”
“For you being a cunt. Stop giving me problems. If you have some solutions, then share them with the group. Otherwise, shut the fuck up!”
The voices were getting closer. Josh and Archie had picked the wrong place to hide. Forcing his eyes shut, Josh listened to the collection of footsteps scuffing over the road surface.
“Well, well, what have we here?”
Opening his eyes, Josh saw a group of about twelve boys—half of them were from his school.
Looking down at the pair, the boy who seemed to be leading the group smiled. “Archie McCartney, how are you doing, mate?”
Turning to his brother, Josh watched Archie stand up and shake the boy’s hand. “How you doing, Sam?” He then nodded at several others in the group, and a series of head nods and flicks returned his gesture. Pointing down at Josh, Archie then helped him to his feet. “This is my brother—Josh.”
When Sam held his hand out, Josh shook it but remained silent. There was something in the way his brother held himself that told Josh this boy wasn’t to be trusted.
Throwing, Archie said, “So what’s happening around here?”
Sam leant forwards as if he hadn’t heard him correctly. “Huh?”
Looking around, buildings burning, shops smashed, Archie waved a hand over the devastation. “What’s happening here?”
“Where have you been for the last two weeks?” When Sam looked at the collection of boys, and a couple of them sniggered.
“We’ve been at home, haven’t we, Josh?”
Josh nodded.
“Mum and Dad told us not to go out, so we stayed in. They said there was trouble on the streets.”
“There’s more than fucking trouble, Archie. London’s fucked! After the economic crash, everything went to shit.”

Josh stood in the almost empty space and looked around. The dolls in the abandoned shop looked weird naked and with some of their limbs missing. The store had been picked clean save for a few dirty items of clothing on the floor. All that remained was the long checkout desk. Most of the tills that should have been bolted to it had been smashed off. A few lopsided signs hung from the Styrofoam roof tiles saying things like ‘Two T-Shirts for £22’.
“Should we be here, Archie?” Josh asked, his voice echoing in the sparse room.
Archie frowned. “What?”
“This shop doesn’t look like somewhere we’re meant to be.” Pointing first at the stainless steel rails, then at the empty display tables, Josh said, “It’s private property.”
“Shops don’t exist anymore, Josh.”
“What do you mean?”
“Money doesn’t work. Without money, why would there be shops? When there’s no profit to be made, no one gives a fuck about anything.”
Keeping his mouth shut because he didn’t really know anything about business, Josh cleared his throat. “I’m cold, Archie.”
“So am I. We just have to deal with it.”
Heat suddenly stung Josh’s eyes and his world blurred.
When Archie looked at him, he tutted. His face then softened and he put his arm around his younger brother. “Don’t worry, mate. This is just a stopover on the way to Nana’s. It’s only for one night. I want to make sure we’re off the streets while it’s dark. The city isn’t safe.”
After looking around again, the empty space lit up by the moon shining in through the windows on the other side of the building, Josh shrugged. “Where are we going to sleep? There are no beds or sheets.”
“We’ll have to sleep on the floor; it’ll only be for a night.”
A shiver ran down the length of Josh’s body. “But it’s cold, Archie.” When he saw Archie ball his fists, he flinched, but the expected punch didn’t come.
“Look, Josh. Everything’s shit at the moment. It’s not all corn flakes and Saturday morning cartoons anymore, okay? Things have changed. We just have to deal with what’s going on the best we can.”
Staring at the grubby floor, Josh didn’t reply.
Swallowing the lump in his throat, Josh finally nodded. “Okay, Archie.” Speaking more quietly, he added, “Sorry.”
Walking over to the window, Josh glanced out at the moonlit street. “It’s strange to see Oxford Street without any lights, don’t you think?”
Frowning as he continued to look around, Archie didn’t reply. Instead, he walked over to the middle of the shop.
Following his brother, Josh asked, “Do you think Mum and Dad will be there?”
“Nana’s. Do you think Mum and Dad will be at Nana’s?”
Looking at his brother for a second, his frown softening, Archie shrugged. “Who knows?”
“What will we do if they’re not?”
“We’ll think of something else. Everything’s changing, and we have to learn to adapt if we’re going to stay alive.”
Josh’s reply caught in his throat when he heard footsteps downstairs—a lot of footsteps.
Archie’s eyes were wide as he looked at the broken escalator. He’d heard them too.
When Josh heard the sound of men’s voices, he started to shake. There were other voices, but they sounded younger, a similar age to Josh.
The heavy footsteps clattered on the metal stairs, and Josh jumped when Archie hooked his arm around him. They both stared. Waiting. There was nowhere to run.
When the first of the gang reached the top, Josh saw that he was no older than about seventeen. When the rest of the gang appeared, filthy and dressed like savages, Josh guessed that he was the leader because of his age. He was clearly the oldest in the group of about twenty boys.
When he saw them, the older boy stopped dead and put his arm out to prevent the others from passing him. “Who the fuck are you?”
“It doesn’t matter who we are,” Archie said, pushing Josh behind him.
Looking at his gang, the leader laughed and turned back to the pair. “Of course it fucking matters. You’re in my shop, you mugs.”
With a pounding heart, Josh watched his brother clench his fists again. If it came to it, Archie would smash the shit out of this boy. Archie was one of the strongest people he knew, but could he take on all of them?
“This ain’t your shop. You don’t own it.”
The boy shook his head and laughed again. “First night out on the streets, is it? What happened? Your parents were taken away from you? Raped? Killed?”
Looking up at his brother, Josh teared up. “What are they talking about, Archie?”
Putting his hand on Josh’s shoulder, Archie looked back at the boy. “No. None of that happened.”
“Then why are you out on the streets on your own? Where are your parents?”
“They went out. For food…” Josh’s stomach lurched when he heard the resignation in his brother’s voice, “three days ago.”
Grabbing a boy next to him, who was no older than seven, the gang leader shoved him forwards. “This is Reece. What happened to your parents, Reece?”
Dropping his eyes to the floor, Reece replied, “They went out for food.”
“Tell them how long you waited for them to come back.”
“Ten days.”
Sighing, the leader pointed at Reece. “We found this poor cunt starved half to death. He was picking through bins for food.” Turning to his gang, he added, “Raise your hands if your parents went out and didn’t come back.”
The air left Josh’s lungs as half the group raised their hands. Sad and hollow stares levelled at him.
“Keep your hands up if you think your parents are still alive.”
All of the hands went down.
Wearing a sneer, the leader laughed. “Your parents are dead, boy. Or worse! The sooner you face it, the sooner you can focus on learning how to survive in this new world. It’s shit out there, and you need to get streetwise pretty fucking quick. I don’t mind you staying here just for tonight—we have fuck all worth stealing—but I want you gone tomorrow. Understand?”
Archie nodded.
“Oh, and be careful of the Tooth Fairy.”
“The Tooth Fairy?” The words had left Josh’s mouth before he’d thought about it, and Archie shot him a dark glare.
The boy laughed and shook his head. Brushing his shaggy hair away from his eyes, he looked from one of the brothers to the other. “Oh dear, you have a lot to learn.” Twisting so he could address his gang, the moonlight lighting up just half of his face, the boy said, “The Tooth Fairy’s mental, ain’t he, boys?”
A lot of the gang nodded and grunted noises of agreement.
“He walks this street at night, and he gets you when you’re sleeping. He slips into your nightmares and makes sure you never wake up.” Lowering his voice, making Josh lean forwards to hear better, the boy continued, “If you listen hard enough, you can hear the jingle jangle of his pockets.” Pushing his finger to his lips, he added, “Shhh. Listen.”
The faintest sound of jangling came from outside, and the grin on the leader’s face fell to the floor. “Oh fuck.” He turned to his gang and whispered, “He’s here.”
The gang went into a near silent frenzy, all of them scattering across the shop floor with the light pattering of shoes against tiles. They all positioned themselves to watch from the windows. All of them hidden in the shadows.
Shaking his head, Archie laughed. “They’re just trying to scare you, Josh.” Despite his confidence, he still walked quietly to the last available window.
Josh followed, the grit on the floor crunching beneath his feet. If they were trying to scare him, they were doing a pretty good job.
In the doorway of an abandoned shop was a tramp covered in rags and blankets. He was huddled in the corner for warmth, and he was surrounded by empty beer cans.
Pulling his brother in tight, Archie leaned in so close that Josh could smell his stale breath as he whispered, “See? There’s only a tramp out there. It must have been his beer cans rattling in the wind.”
The jangling continued, but everything surrounding the tramp was still. The sound wasn’t one of aluminium on concrete; it sounded more like broken crockery in a bag.
When Josh looked up the street and saw a man walking down the pavement, he grabbed his brother’s arm. The slim figure had something hanging from his hand, and it looked like a hammer. He was heading straight for the tramp. “What’s he going to do, Arch?”
Archie put his finger to his lips.
When the walking man got closer, it was easier to see him clearly. He was wearing a trench coat that looked damp, and Josh imagined it stinking of mould. Poking out of the bottom of his trench coat were dark trousers and shoes. It was impossible to see his face for shadow, and just when it looked like the moon would reveal it, it fell into shadow again. The only thing Josh saw was his stubbly neck.
The man stopped next to the tramp, and the jangling stopped too.
Moving closer to his brother, Josh could feel that he was shaking too.
When the man lifted his weapon, the moonlight confirmed it was a hammer. In a blink, he brought it down. Crunch! The tramp didn’t have time to scream.
Hunched over the tramp, the Tooth Fairy threw several more wet thuds into the pile of clothes in the doorway before standing back and panting.
To get a better view, Josh stood up and moved closer to the window.
The Tooth Fairy then pulled something from his trench coat pocket.
Pushing the tramp’s damp rags aside revealed a dark, glistening mass of hair. The Tooth Fairy leant in, and shoving the thing he’d pulled from his pocket into the man’s face, he twisted. After two tugs and a wet pop, the Tooth Fairy stepped away.
Putting the pliers back in his pocket, he held the tooth up to the moon. It seemed like he was watching it for an age before he shifted his gaze. His glare landed on Josh.
Josh’s balls pulled tight, and it took all of his concentration to hold onto his bladder. His heart pounded.
Dropping the tooth into his pocket, the Tooth Fairy continued staring. It was easy to see the filthy man’s face now. Stubbly. Stained with blood. Hooked nose. Dark eyes. Really dark eyes. Sticking his thumb out, he sneered as he drew it across his throat like an imaginary knife. Staring for another minute or so, he then walked away. The tingle of hundreds of teeth accompanied his footsteps.
Once he was out of sight, Josh felt an explosion of pain in his right arm. “You fucking idiot!”
Rubbing it, Josh scowled at his brother. “Ow!”
“What were you fucking doing? You were right in the fucking light. He’s seen you now!”
Stepping from the shadows and bringing the smell of dirt with him, the leader of the gang said, “You know what that means, don’t you?”
Gulping dry air, Josh shook his head.
“He’s marked you, bruv.”
Stepping into the boy’s personal space, Archie said, “Don’t be fucking stupid.”
The boy shrugged. “You don’t have to take my word for it, but I’ve seen it before. You’ve been marked. The next time you close your eyes to sleep, you’ll hear the jingle-jangle of the Tooth Fairy.”
“Look, mate—”
“I ain’t your mate.” He pointed at Josh. “Especially now the Tooth Fairy’s seen him.”
“Whatever. Just fuck off, yeah?”
“You’re in my home.”
Their conversation stopped making sense to Josh as his world spun. He only realised what they were doing when Archie grabbed his arm and said, “Come on. We’re going.”
Allowing his brother to lead him down the escalator, Josh heard the boys shouting down to them, “Sweet dreams!”
As they walked across the ground floor of the shop, chased out of the building by laughter, Josh dug his heels in, making Archie stop. “Wasn’t he the man that burned our house down?”
Archie nodded. “Yeah, he was. Now let’s go before the lunatic comes back and burns this place down.”
“I thought you said it wasn’t safe to walk the streets at night.”
Turning to face his brother, Archie grabbed his shoulders and shook him. “Listen to me. Nowhere’s safe, Josh. Dad said something to me before he left. He said that everything’s changing now—that we couldn’t trust anyone or anything. All we can do is love one another. Make sure that the other one’s all right, and expect change. He said he loves us—they both do.”
Pouting, Josh said, “He also said they’d be back.”
“Maybe they have gone back. Maybe we’ve just missed them.”
“Don’t say that, Archie.”
“What could we have done? Stayed in a burning house? The point is, he said we need to adapt. Nothing stays the same; it just happens to be moving quicker now than ever. Dad said as long as we love each other, then we’ll be okay. Love is constant.”
“I miss Mum and Dad.”
It was the first time in a long while Josh had seen Archie cry. Wiping his eyes, his big brother said, “I miss them too. I love you, Josh. Now let’s go before that lunatic comes back. All we can do is focus on getting to Nana’s.”
With the sting of tears spreading across his eyeballs, Josh followed his brother out of the building.


  1. That's a really awesome short story, makes me want to read the book. Now I've got to get it. :)

  2. Surfing through some recommendations for fellow fiction bloggers, this story caught my eye. You can believe I'll be subscribing.

    1. Thank you for stopping by Sebastian. I really appreciate you taking the time to read my work.