Suzie Tremors and the Barbarians of Speed

Chapter Three

Ken Preston

10 February 2024

An illustraation of an angry punk woman screaming into a microphone.

Is it safe here?

Am I safe?

I shouldn’t be telling you all this. But I guess I should tell someone, otherwise who’s going to know? God, it’s cold in here. Don’t you think it’s cold?

Where was I? Oh, yeah.

Ng took us to a place in Camden, a massive old house, all cracked windows, peeling paint, and a hound from Hell sitting on the front lawn. It yawned when it saw us, showing off its fangs.

Ng opened the door like he lived there. The reception hall was stuffed with clocks. Grandfather clocks, carriage clocks, clocks on the walls and on crooked shelves, crowding the mantelpiece, all sizes and shapes. Every clock told a different time to the others. I checked my watch. None of them had got the time right.

The living room was crowded with furniture and stuffed animals. Dark, like an overcast winter’s day. There was this obese man sitting cross-legged in the middle of the massive rug laid out over the scratched, warped floorboards.

He nodded at NG and gestured at Suzie to come and sit down opposite. All her usual bravado had disappeared. She sat down like a timid little child. I lifted the Leica to get a photo, recording Suzie’s life in silver nitrate like she said, but Ng placed his hand over my camera lens and shook his head.

I lowered the camera.

Put the lens cap on.

Paid attention.

I didn’t want to miss what was coming next. If I couldn’t photograph it, I had to see it.

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The obese guy started chanting in a high, nasal voice. Raised his hands, palms up. Ng crept around the edges of the room, lighting candles. Out in the hall a grandfather clock chimed the time.

I thought Suzie might join in with the chanting, but she just sat and stared at the fat guy. She’d wrapped her arms around her midriff, like she was cold maybe. And all the while the fat guy was chanting, the room was growing darker.

Ng kept lighting more candles, but he couldn’t keep up. The more he lit, the darker it got.

I don’t remember much about what happened next.

Maybe that’s not right. I do remember it, I just can’t picture it, or put it into words. Suzie screamed a lot, I remember that much. Not screaming like she’d been scared by something, but real, full-on, desperate wails of terror and despair.

And there were other things in that room with us, in the darkness that the candles couldn’t penetrate. Things with dripping teeth and long, curved claws, things with tight, leathery skin and too many eyes packed into misshapen skulls.

I’ve always been told that Hell is hot, but these days I’m not so sure.

I believe it’s cold, like sub-zero, freezing.

When the obese guy finished chanting the darkness retreated. The only things in the room with claws were the stuffed animals, and they were too moth-eaten and decrepit to be a threat.

The fat guy dismissed us with a wave of his hand. Ng nodded at the door.

Me and Suzie, we got out of there fast. The hound from Hell was still sat outside, like one of those stone dogs you see outside rich people’s houses.

Me and Suzie, we found a coffee shop where we drank gallons of hot coffee and smoked a pack of cigarettes, just to try and warm up. Seemed like I would never feel warm again.

And there was this shrivelled old man sitting at a corner table, chewing on a limp slice of toast. And he was staring at us, and he was laughing to himself.

Now it occurs to me he was laughing at us.

That was the day Suzie Tremors and the Barbarians of Speed were born.

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