bright. Within the brilliance, a dark shape materialised from nowhere.

Idelle Gethin had given up hope of reaching the spare seat without taking a tumble. She arranged her bags around her feet, and clutched at a standing pole as she tried to remain upright. Beside her, a woman with messy hair was staring at her mobile phone. Idelle thought the brightness was early morning sun at first. Then there was hot, rank breath in her face. A mouthful of savage teeth snapped towards her. Maddened eyes popped wildly beneath a leathery, furrowed brow. The last thing Idelle thought of was the hyperthyroid woman as this nightmare creature tore at her throat.

Herold Schoonhoven was engrossed in an article on transport performance metrics when the commotion began. Someone was trying to push past the fat woman with the pile of bags. A spray of something squirted across the bus. For a second, Herold thought it was a can fizzing open. But it was a gasp of breath and the spurt of arterial blood splashing over his paper. The undergrads in the nearby seat were yelling in horror. Herold reeled back, his mind struggling to process what he saw. Some sort of wild creature had savaged the fat woman, who dropped to the floor with a final gurgling exhalation. But where had it come from, and who would dress a creature like that?

A rush of foul air ran through the bus. The creature lunged forward, its eyes rolling in its dreadful face. It clawed and scraped its way through into the front section of the bus, raking at everything with sharp talons. Passengers shrank back in terror, unable to press themselves far enough against the cold glass of the windows, trapped in their upholstered bucket seats.

Cefn Welch heard the shouts from behind him. Bloody students arsing around again, he thought. They think that raising money for charity gives them a licence to behave how they want. Well, not on his bus. He’d get past this stretch of road works, pull over, and throw them off. The van in the opposite lane was flashing him, so he pressed down the accelerator and the Scania powered into the gap.

So he wasn’t expecting the attack. A hot, sour smell assailed him first. Like the sick-and-shit breath of tramps on the night bus. Then a sharp pain in his left arm. Scorching needles raked his shoulder and throat. He caught his breath in surprise, and was more surprised to find he couldn’t breathe. He fell against the emergency exit door, his whole body shaking. A hideous, deformed face leered at him.

The van driver was hooting his horn. Cefn snapped his head up, feeling fresh pain in his neck. Through the huge front windscreen, the road works loomed. Cefn wrenched at the wheel, but the Scania was already careering through the barrier and up a mound of earth. The view through the windscreen angled wildly. The bus powered up the mound, twisting to the right like a rearing animal. The engine continued to roar as though Cefn was still pressing down on the accelerator, but he could no longer feel his left leg.

Daniel Pugh tumbled off his bench and pitched into the aisle. The bus corkscrewed onto its side and slammed down onto the roadway with a splintering crash. The side window crazed as it struck the opposite kerb and scraped along with a rending cry of protest that rivalled any of the screaming inside the vehicle. The connecting axle groaned and sheared as the rear carriage of the bus reluctantly twisted to follow the front section, hurling passengers from their seats with dull thuds as they struck hard surfaces.

When the vehicle finally came to a stop, Shona lay dazed against a smashed window. The fat woman was a dead weight across her, and Shona didn’t know whose blood was blurring her vision. The engine continued to rev fruitlessly. The hissing sound of escaping air mingled with the weeping of survivors.

Shona still clutched at her phone. The sounds were getting woollier, more distant. She tried to focus on the little screen. She pressed feebly at the phone, but her fingers felt numb against the fiddly little buttons. Panic was setting in – was that Emergency or Redial or Return Call?

The shrieking roar of a maddened, wounded creature filled the bus. Shona stopped being worried about being late for her daughter, and started worrying about whether she was going to die.


The washing up mocked Rhys from across the room. A tottering pile of stacked plates and cups leered at him, like a crockery monster that had taken up residence in the sink. If it was a real alien – and God knows, the things Gwen now told him about, he could almost believe it – his fiancee would no doubt finish it off with her Torchwood handgun. Unfortunately, Rhys was the one who’d promised to finish it off, first thing this morning when he’d kissed Gwen goodbye on her way out. His neck prickled with guilty realisation: another broken promise.

He flicked the receiver on the counter to BBC Radio Wales as background noise, and got stuck in. He caught the end of a news report about an attack by vandals in a shopping mall – that would explain the fire alarm at Pendefig, then. Next it was the sort of ‘human interest’ stuff that drove him bonkers. David Brigstocke made a report about two Plaid members who’d demanded an inquiry into subsidence at the Assembly building. ‘Don’t dig too deep,’ Rhys shouted at the radio. A cub scout group had dressed up in Halloween gear for a charity clean-up of litter-strewn beaches. A woman was suing a tanning salon because she got severe burns after they allowed her to make four visits in one day. Rhys changed channels with soapy fingers once he realised how loudly he was bellowing at the radio. Maybe he’d catch the Harwood’s jingle during an ad break. He was singing ‘Who can you trust to wash up your plates?’ to himself when the front door clicked and he heard Gwen walk in.

She threw her leather jacket across the arm of the sofa. ‘Was that you ranting?’ she tutted. ‘I could hear you out on the landing.’

‘That’s no way to talk about my singing.’

Gwen gave a good-humoured yell, and waved away his sudsy embrace. Rhys approached her for a kiss, waggling bubbles at her. ‘Weren’t you supposed to do that first thing? And where’s my lunch on the table, eh?’ She watched him dry his hands. ‘Not the tea towel, use a proper towel!’

‘That’s your mother’s voice,’ teased Rhys. He enveloped her in a big hug, snuggling into her neck. ‘Mmm. You’re wearing your sexy red top. I love you in that. But I love you more out of it…’

She wriggled with delight. ‘This is your excuse for not cooking lunch?’

‘I’d have done it sooner, love,’ Rhys said, ‘but the shops were mental.’

He felt her stiffen in his embrace. ‘I popped out for a few bits and bobs,’ he explained warily. ‘Oh, there was a classic I overheard. This woman outside Leckworth’s said to her friend, “So, she kept his bus pass because he wouldn’t be needing it where he’s gone,” and her mate said, “What, heaven?” And she said, “No, Carmarthen”.’

Gwen disengaged herself and folded her arms. ‘Leckworth’s?’

‘And Banana said, “That there, Rhys, is the true voice of Cowbridge Road”…’ He faltered under her glare.

‘That would be Leckworth’s in Pendefig Mall?’ Gwen was using her mother’s tone of reprimand. Rhys decided not to mention that just at the moment. ‘You promised me, Rhys.’

‘I didn’t go near the dress shop.’

‘And you took God’s gift to Welsh women with you, too! I might have known.’

Rhys made a placating gesture, then grabbed the MonstaQuest cards off the counter. ‘Banana wasn’t there for long,’ he lied. He offered the large deck of cards to her, half apology, half peace offering. ‘I got these for him as a joke. Might be good for the day, don’t you think?’

She practically snatched them out of his twitching fingers. ‘Never mind Banana Boat,’ she hissed. ‘He’d still be stuck in Lanzarote if Torchwood hadn’t pulled some strings with the Spanish.’

Rhys scowled. ‘Well, thank you Torchwood, as usual.’

‘Who d’you think got him through Arrecife Airport? I should have told Ianto to arrange him a full-cavity search at Customs. See how many DVDs he was smuggling.’

‘CDs,’ corrected Rhys, and immediately winced with regret.

Gwen flung the MonstaQuest deck at Rhys, skimming it like a Frisbee past his head. It hit the radio, detuning it in the middle of a jaunty ad jingle. The cellophane cover on the card deck split, spilling multicoloured cards over the counter and onto the tiled floor.

‘Whoa, whoa, whoa!’ Rhys showed her his palms in an effort to calm her. He switched the radio off at the plug, and sighed as he considered a couple of the cards that floated in the tired-looking dishwater. Gwen continued to glower at him. She put a hand to her mouth and broke the gaze. Rhys saw there were tears in her eyes. ‘This

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