“The Lost Boys” by Callum Pearce

Darkness draped itself over the city of Liverpool, a cold wind crept in behind it. Shoppers and workers rushed to catch buses or dive into one of the warm, well-lit bars scattered around the city. As the Liver birds lit up against the night sky and the streets emptied, the night shift began. The daytime tapestry of the city unpicked itself as the night time tapestry was woven around it. Prostitutes and rent boys put themselves out on display. Bar staff rushed to their night shifts, drag queens tottered down the road on spiked heels. Slowly, the gay bars filled with people. Some looking for love or just company for the night. Others were just happy with the alcohol and music, content to watch people enjoying their evenings, knowing they were not alone.

In the rainbow, one of the seedier gay bars. One man was out of place. He was sitting at a table glaring at the queens around him. Which one would be his victim? which of them would he get to empty all of his rage and frustration on? Damien hadn’t planned to be here tonight. Usually, he would be in bed early, ensuring that he was fresh for work the next day. A surprise meeting with his manager had cleared away any worries about that. Staff had to be let go and since he was new to the company, he was first on the list. He could work the rest of the month but his temporary contract would be up by then and wouldn’t be getting renewed. Putting his managers head through his office window had ensured that he would no longer be required to work that last month after all. He had expected to feel better after teaching his boss a lesson, he didn’t. Anger continued to build, his sense of the grotesque unfairness of the world chattered away in his mind.

The drag queens and rent boys that hung around outside the gay bars near his office had always disgusted him. The bars in these streets were mostly frequented by men, they were known as the seedier places in town. He saw them every day on the way home from work. He dreamed of driving his car right into a group of them. When he saw them tonight, those thoughts had filled his head again, but that would be too easy. There would be nothing more than a moment’s satisfaction, as they slid under the wheels of his car. He wanted to get hold of one, get him alone, and really do some damage. He imagined leaving the battered corpse outside one of their dens, teach them all a lesson. The flash of violence with his manager had done nothing to make him feel better. He needed something more satisfying.

Ginger, the drag queen behind the bar was watching him closely. When you work in a gay bar for a long time, you tend to be wary of any newcomers. You develop a sixth sense for those that are there to cause trouble. This one was tapping his feet and glaring at anybody who came into the Place. He had nursed the same pint of beer for an hour. Until he did something though, there wasn’t much she could do except keep an eye on him. The door staff stood at the entrance and Ginger had a baseball bat behind the bar. Still, she didn’t feel safe tonight. Something felt wrong. Even before Damien had arrived, the air felt heavy, her spine tingled. She would be glad when work was over and she was on her way home.

The hunter eyed his potential prey. Across the dance floor, leaning against the wall was a small built, pretty, young man. In the dark bar, Damien judged him to be probably in his twenties. Every so often, he would put down his drink and take a long look at Damien. Each time he looked over, he would stare for a bit longer. Damien was already picturing the young man’s battered body, left for the other queers to find on their doorstep. Holding down the disgust he felt, he smiled across the bar and tried to look slightly more relaxed. If he could get this one to leave with him, he could finally release the rage inside of him. He detested these people, they had always made him feel uncomfortable, made him want to turn away. Here in their nest he just wanted to kill every last one of them. Parading around together, flaunting their homosexuality. He felt as though they had been mocking him his whole life. As though their mere existence mocked him, his family, his beliefs.

The man across the bar started to walk slowly towards the exit. Stopping a few feet in front of Damien, he gestured for him to follow. This had been easier than Damien had expected. Grabbing his jacket from the chair, he finished his pint and stood to follow the stranger outside. Ginger rushed from behind the bar. She had no idea what she was going to say or do. She just wanted to stop the young man from leaving with the brooding stranger.

“Excuse me…” Ginger began.

The young man turned to face Ginger. She staggered back horrified as the light from the bar hit his face. His eyes were completely black, his skin chalk white. The smile bothered her even more. Beneath the dark eyes, his menacing smile reminded her of a hungry shark. The eyes seemed to tease something out of her. It was as though this creature was slowly pulling her soul into itself.

 “I’m sorry, I thought you were someone else,” she managed, before rushing back behind the bar. She watched them leave, then she started to breathe again.

Damien followed his prospective victim out of the bar into the dark alleyway. The alley seemed to be stretching as he walked along it. It seemed to take forever to reach the end. Suddenly, the young man pulled him into the doorway at the back of a bar. Before Damien knew what was happening the man had pulled down his trousers and shorts and was kneeling in front of him. For a moment there was a flutter of excitement in his stomach at what was happening. This was quickly drowned by a wave of rage and disgust. Just as he was about to shove the man to the ground, the stranger looked up at him and smiled. Damien saw his face properly for the first time under the security light that hung above the doorway.

“What the fuck are you?”

The black-eyed creature stood up pushing a knife into Damien’s stomach. He stepped backward and Damien could see he was holding his wallet in his hand.

“A big risk down these dark alleyways,” the creature said calmly. “People will take your desire, your loneliness, and lust.  They will use it against you. So many have been led to this place with the promise of a good time, only to be attacked and robbed.”

Damien was clutching the bleeding wound in his stomach whilst trying to pull up his trousers with one hand. He felt sick and more enraged than ever before. The creature watched him, amused. Just as he fastened his trousers, a sharp pain suddenly spread at the back of his knees and he fell to the floor. The cause of the pain became obvious as somebody dressed as an old fashioned policeman stepped out from behind him, raising his baton for another swing.

“We know what you queers do down here, pervert.” He swung the truncheon and hit Damien hard in the face. “It’s my job to keep filth off the streets.”

He hit Damien again on the forehead, breaking the skin and causing blood to pour down his face. Then he started hitting him hard in the ribs. The final assault was a hard kick in the stomach, this caused more blood to ooze from the stab wound. Content with his work, the policeman turned to walk away. He whistled a merry tune as he seemed to fade from existence.

“You hate us having these bars, you thought you might use my body to scare gay people away from these places.” The creature glared at Damien, eyes like black holes in a face filled with disgust. “These streets are ours, our blood, sweat, and tears have collected between these cobblestones. We are these streets.”

Damien was trying to stand, He wanted to fight back but didn’t dare take his hand from the wound in his stomach. He was barely aware of the severity of the wound on his head. All he felt was the blood pouring down his face and tightness where the wind dried it on his skin. He stumbled forward, hoping to escape from the alleyway and get help.

“Oi, Queer,” somebody shouted the words behind him. He turned to see a group of men approaching and knew exactly their intent. The same intent he had held earlier. “Fucking get him!”

The men started to run as he turned and tried to push himself forward. They were behind him in seconds. In his rush to escape, Damien tripped and fell again to the ground. They surrounded him, kicking and punching. They spat at him and screamed obscenities in his face. Then they ran away kicking a can down the alleyway in front of them. They faded from his reality as he wiped the blood from his eyes. Damien could see a couple passing on the other side of the path, they turned away from him and tried to pretend he wasn’t there.

“Sometimes they are the worst,” the creature spoke calmly. “Those that walk on by.” His sharp teeth shone as he grinned under the security light.  “It’s just some queer, he was probably asking for it anyway. Nothing to do with us. Best to just look away and keep yourself to yourself.”

Damien could just about push himself up into a crawling position. He tried to crawl away from the creature, it walked slowly behind him. He was forced to stop as he noticed another of the black-eyed creatures was sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of him. It was shoving hand fulls of pills into its mouth and sobbing between mouthfuls. Further on, he could see one hanging from a doorway. It was staring straight at him with its black eyes and grinning. Now, these things were filling the alley around him. Some drinking some taking drugs others having sex against the walls.

“All of the boys that came here looking for a sort of home,” The creature sighed. “Each of them looking for nothing more than a safe space and an end to their loneliness. A place to be away from people like you. You would deny us even this. These dirty, seedy, bars, hidden down dark alleys or in cellars. These forgotten places filled with danger to the young and naive.”

“I’m sorry.” Damien managed to shout. “I’ll do whatever you want.”

“Did these boys get to bargain for another chance?  Would my tears have stopped you carrying out your plan this evening? Look around you, victims of murder and suicide. Robberies that went too far. Beatings and abuse from so many directions. Some filling themselves with alcohol or drugs to kill the pain and eventually themselves. Could they bargain their way out of that? No, nor can you.”

The others faded from sight and Damien tried to crawl back the way they had come. His eyes were starting to close as his face swelled around them and blood poured from every wound. He was getting weaker with every second.

“This is just one of our streets. Just one of the places filled with our blood, shaped by our pain. We earned this place. You will not take it from us,” the creature continued to follow Damien as he tried to summon the strength to get away from it. “Then there are those in the bars, some of them are survivors of these incidents you have witnessed tonight. Those who haven’t joined us yet to haunt these streets. You sat with them earlier, still coming down here, knowing the danger. Trying to make it safer for those who come behind them.”

Damien kept crawling as the shadows of those whose lives had been lost here faded in and out of sight around him. He could feel their pain and confusion as it mixed with his.

“Why me?” they whispered as they passed him. He saw flashes of other people’s memories. People chased from their homes by those that were supposed to protect them. People trapped in abusive relationships because they had nowhere else to go, nobody to talk to. He saw others having a great night out laughing and joking with friends, unaware that their night would end here in the piss-stinking alleyway at the end of a blade.

“People like you created us, the lost boys that roam these streets and the girls trapped in their nightmares around the other bars in town.” as the creature spoke, Damien’s head was becoming cloudy. He could barely hear what the thing was saying anymore so it stopped talking and faded back into its nightmare.

Damien could hear a lot of noise around him, all of a sudden. The door staff at the bar he had just left were fussing around him as he bled to death on their doorstep.

“He just came from nowhere,” a bemused doorman said as Ginger appeared at the door.

“Just call the police, there’s nothing we can do,” Ginger insisted. “The lost boys got him.”

 The door staff fell silent and stepped back from the dying man at their feet. Everybody on the gay scene had heard about the lost boys and lost girls that haunted these places. Creatures created by hate and cruelty.cursed to walk the streets that they had lived and died on. Thankfully few had ever seen them. Ginger shuddered thinking of the empty hungry eyes she had stared into earlier. She quickly returned to the bar to phone for the removal of the body.

-THE END –

Callum Pearce, author.

Callum Pearce is a Dutch storyteller, originally from Liverpool. He is a fiction writer published multiple times across a variety of platforms. A Lover of the magical as well as the macabre. He lives in a foggy old fishing town in the Netherlands with his husband and a couple of cat shaped sprites. Popping up in lots of drabble collections and anthologies or online. He has also written factual articles for an LGBTQ+ lifestyle website.