Hangers On – Steven John

In my dream I hear the whip-lash of firecrackers. I feel bones being broken on a butchers block. I see a boy throw paper screws of gunpowder onto the pavement from a coned paper bag. My head bolts round on the pillow, currents of electricity shock up and down my neck. I stare my ears into the dark.

Awake now, I still hear the cracks, and laughter. Every night, prowling packs of them, high on vapour, waiting for their freenet ration to come online. I lay listening in the green hue from the clock. 3am. Another four hours before any freenet. Another four hours before these ferals feed, snouts blue in their screens, gobbling it up. My thoughts glitch. The firecrackers and caterwauls aren’t from the street outside the window. The noise comes from behind where I lay in bed with my wife. They come from the rear of the house.

I get out of bed, cross the room to the window and touch the translucence pad on the glass. The pane changes from black to clear. The street outside is empty. Spots of rain fall in the sodium glow from the few streetlights that work. Cars and quik-shaws parked, charging up on the patchwork of tarmac and mud. Sewerage burps up from under the manhole covers. Luminous graffiti painted on the charging posts, scribbles down the street like fireflies.

“What’s that?” My wife wakes, still groggy from the hypnonoise in her earplants.

“Sounds like drunks, or vapunks, with fireworks. From the backyard.”

I put on a gown and walk into the empty back bedroom, our daughter’s childhood dolls propped up on the pillows, their black eyes reflect spots of white light. The firecrackers are louder now and I make out voices. The window glass is on permanent translucence. The repair-men never come. I look down into the yard. There’s a group of young people on the decking, some standing, some lying on the loungers, exhaling clouds of colour, white, green, purple GM weed. The laserbarb fence around the yard is intact. They must have accessed through the path at the side. The alarm has packed up again, or the housecomms would have spoken. My wife stands naked beside me. One of the males raises a bottle.

“Great tits lady. Join the party”.

My wife swipes at the opacity pad on the window.

“It doesn’t work”.

“I’ll call the police.” She leaves my side.

Two of the females start to have sex on a lounger. Their legs are no more than bones, full tattoo cover, green and yellow snakeskin, shaved genitals, grey with disease, open wounds. I turn on the housecomms, press ‘garden’.

“If you don’t leave now we’ll call the police.”

“Call away shithead. We party right here.”

My wife returns to the bedroom in a robe. I hear holding music on her phone.

“999. Wait time ten minutes, go to website or call back. Call’s in a queue.”


One of the males squats to defecate on the grass. Black liquid squirts. The one with the drink throws a firecracker.

“Fuck off Janus. Can’t I shit in peace?” Bowels cleared, he pulls trousers over black stained legs. The females have stopped their sex but haven’t re-clothed. They sway their skeletal bodies to an unheard beat.

“Infected. Antibiotic resistant. All of them”, my wife says. “We can’t go outside”.

“We don’t know they’re resistant. Could be they haven’t got money to buy the new strains.”

Some are missing fingers, hands, feet, limbs; frayed stumps waiting for an auto. A girl’s rusted alloy-leg doesn’t respond to her chip, it’s bent at the knee, she walks on tiptoe. A virus infested headchip.

Someone has answered my wife’s call. She hands me the phone.

“This is 999 sponsored by Angel Globenet, Bluelight Response. My name is Laverne. How may I help you?”

“Police please”.

“Before we proceed I need to take you through security. Your account number, date of birth and postcode please.”

I hear sounds of cooking in the background; plates and pans, children arguing, a baby crying. Out-sourced phone response. A cheap emergency contract. All we could afford.

“You’re through security Mr Hughes. May I call you Vaughan?”

“Just send the police. I can hear you’re busy.”

“We need to know the nature of your call Vaughan”, I hear a door close, muffling the background noise.

“Vapunks in my backyard. They’re infected, need antibiotics”

“Have they used or threatened violent behaviour or are they causing any criminal damage to your property Vaughan?”

“They’ve been throwing fireworks and smoking tobacco. They’ve had unsafe sex on my garden furniture and shit contagion on my grass. They’re trespassing on my property. It’s 3.30 in the morning. Is that enough?”

“Under the terms of your contract Vaughan, none of what you’ve said is covered for police response.”

A child in Laverne’s house whispers. I hear the child over the phone. I hear someone retch.

“Daddy’s got blood on his shirt”, a child’s voice.

“What are my options?” I ask Laverne.

“Vaughan, we can offer you a remote police response with e-mailed status and action report within the hour for £350, or a professionally written complaint to the police for £175.”

“We’ll have the remote response with email.”

We go downstairs into the kitchen. My wife pours two small measures of sterilised water and puts out pills. I turn a window to clear. The one called Janus and a girl put their faces to the glass. My wife takes pictures. Janus has vampire teeth implants that protrude over his lower lip. The girl’s few remaining teeth are stained purple from GM weed vape, her face aflame with spots, some bleeding, some gangrenous, her face being eaten.

I shout, “Leave us alone. Fuck off”

Janus speaks “We don’t like hangers-on old man.”

My wife says, “don’t antagonise them. They’ll break in, infect us.”

“They’re not going to break in. They know they’d be shot. They want to be arrested, taken to a life-seekers camp. Free food, medicine, vapes.”

From over the rooftops we see flashing blue lights. A police drone. The vapunks cheer and wave at it like a rescue.

The drone, silhouetted in blue, hovers silently at roof height above them and points down its weapons. Pinpricks of white from the underside of the drone coalesce into one iceberg of daylight. The geiger-paint of the vapunks hair, their tattooed skin, their vape clouds, all turn shades of grey, diminishing them to a black and white photograph. A camera with a single red eye scans over them, a blade of blue medi-data light slices through each one in turn. The light searches out modified weapon capabilities on their auto limbs.

A she-bot voice from the drone. “A complaint scene video, identification and medi-reports have been uploaded to police headquarters for analysis. Any new complaint of criminal behaviour will be met with an immediate armed response.”

“Arrest us you FUCKERS”, Janus throws his bottle in the direction of the drone. The drone ascends two meters higher.

“Throwing litter incurs a fine of a one year freenet ban. We advise you to desist and recycle waste according to the manufacturer’s instructions.” The drone raises its weapons, ascends into the dawn sky, and scuds back across the rooftops.

My wife asks “what happens now?”

“Open our emails.”

In the sitting room we turn on an i-panel. There’s an email from Angel Globenet, Bluelight Response with a vidfile attachment. We read the e-mail.

Subject: Complaint of unsupervised firework display, tobacco smoking, unsafe sex, fouling private property, public nuisance and trespass.

Police Priority: less than 5%

Advice: All personnel identified by remote police response unit. Low risk of criminality. Four identified personnel terminally infected. Life expectancy – less than 26 days. Eight identified personnel – 86% antibiotic resistant. Do not approach. Angel Globenet recommends precautionary dosages of antibiotic versions 684/674/ah-f/9, available in 1 hour from Amazon Drone.

Action: 21-28 days to arrest, subject to higher priority incidents.

We watch the vidfile; an aerial view of our decking. We see our geriatric faces at the window, our shreds of grey hair, our stooped backs, my arm holding up my 120 year old wife. The auto walkers fused to her pelvis have broken. The repair men never come.

‘Hangers-on’ they call us. With luck our National Death Service euthanasia will come through soon, although if this carries I know where to find a quasi-legal clinic. She’d go tomorrow. I’ll hang on a while longer.




STEVEN JOHN lives in The Cotswolds, Gloucestershire, UK and writes flash fiction, short stories and poetry. He has had work published in writing group pamphlets and on short fiction and poetry websites including Riggwelter Press, Reflex Fiction and Fictive Dream. In December 2017 Steven won the inaugural Farnham Short Story Competition and has won Bath Ad Hoc fiction four times. Steven has read from his work at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival, Stroud Short Stories, The Bard of Hawkwood and The Flasher’s Club. Twitter: @StevenJohnWrite


Image: StockSnap via Pixabay



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