Extract: The Fear
Stuff . . . more stuff . . .
Get more stuff . . . good stuff . . .
It was dark outside, safe to leave now. He squeezed his
great bulk down the hallway and out through the front
door, sniffing the air. A curtain of greasy hair flopped in
front of his eyes, and he pushed it back with an enormous
fat hand, smearing a shiny yellow streak across his face from
a burst pustule on his cheek.
He smiled. He was going out to find stuff.
All he had ever really been interested in was stuff. Things.
Kit. Gadgets. Toys. Gizmos. His tiny basement flat had
always been full of it. Days and nights he had spent down
there on his computer – TV on, music blaring, playing
games: playing and playing and playing until he lost all
track of time. He had been so happy, surrounded by his
stuff , his shelves of DVDs, CDs, old vinyl, comics, Star
Wars figures, manga figures, Star Trek collectibles, books
and magazines, takeaway food cartons, toy robots,
keyboards and amps and screens . . . Nothing ever chucked
away. Old computers piled in corners, mobile phones,
cameras, tangled piles of leads and plugs . . .
Stuff . A life of stuff.
Eventually he had made holes in the walls, burrowed out of his flat, taken over the basements on either side, and
when they were full he had moved upwards, floor by floor,
filling the building ever fuller with stuff.
And now he was off out to find more stuff. It was so easy
now. Everything was just lying around waiting for him to
come and pick it up. He held a sturdy carrier bag in each
meaty hand, though he didn’t think he’d need them tonight.
Tonight he was looking for toys. His last toys had got
broken beyond repair. They’d stopped moving, stopped
entertaining him with their jerky actions. Stopped making
their funny noises. What use were toys if you couldn’t play
games with them any more?
When they no longer worked, he simply ate them.
Collecting stuff and eating, that was all he did now.
When his toys broke, he slumped on his sofa and stared at
the blank screens of his TVs, waiting for night to fall.
Sometimes he’d sit at the computer, tapping away at the
keyboard, some deep memory stirring inside him. For
hours on end. Tap, tap, tapping. Making a strange kind of
But now he had a purpose.
He waddled slowly down the road, taking great care
with each step. There was just enough light from the thin
moon and distant stars to pick his way along. He didn’t
mind the dark. In truth he had always been nocturnal,
sitting with the curtains drawn, no interest in sunlight or
fresh air or other people.
He was careful, though. If he fell down, it would be hard
for him to get up again. His bare feet landed solidly and
squarely on the filthy surface of the road he knew so well.
Night after night he would come out here and move from
shop to shop, house to house, looting them for more stuff. Like some huge clumsy bear ransacking people’s dustbins,
his strong arms ripping and tearing to get at what he
He was tempted by the massive building down the road.
The department store. So many nights he’d spent in there
removing stuff . But it was getting too dangerous now.
Others had got in and made nests and they sometimes tried
to attack him as he trundled about searching for anything
he’d missed. They couldn’t do him any real harm – he was
too big, too heavy, too solid – but he liked to hunt for his
stuff in peace. So he had taken to breaking into houses
instead. There was always stuff in them. This had been a
rich neighbourhood. He would tear out hi-fi systems, pull
fl at-screen TVs from walls, dig through drawers for
cameras and sat-navs and iPods and mobile phones, cramming
them into his bags to carry home and add to his
Not tonight, though. He had to concentrate, not forget
what he was looking for.
He’d heard them the night before. Smelled them. On his
way back home with bulging carrier bags. He’d tried to get
at them where they were hidden in a building, but the sky
had started to brighten over the tops of the roofs and he
had slunk back to his cellar to hide until the darkness
He hated the sun. It burned his skin, blinded him, sent
his thoughts spinning so that he couldn’t think straight.
The darkness was warm and comforting, like an old blanket.
He would sit slumped on his sofa through all the long
day: waiting, dozing, dreaming. And now . . . Now he had
the whole night to break in and get at the toys.
He smiled as he pictured all the fun he was going to have
when he got the toys back to his collection. Prodding them,
and making them skitter about on the floor. Letting them
get away, then pulling them back. He chuckled, the sound
a wet gurgle in his throat.
Stuff . . .
He only wished they would last longer and not break so
quickly, because it was hard work catching them. They ran
about and made too much noise. Most broke before he
could even get them home.
He followed the scent down the street, wiping away the
snot that bubbled permanently from his nose. He was dribbling
too. Sticky saliva falling on to his stained T-shirt.
Stuff . . .
It took him ages to make his way down the street, round
the corner and on to the next road. Each footfall landing
softly on the tarmac. He hoped no one had got there before
him. The smell of the toys was very strong.
Here was the place. A shop he used to come to a lot. A
gadget shop. Long since cleaned out, but the toys had got
inside. He’d come past it last night and the good sweet smell
had hit him like a hammer blow. He’d tried to get in, but
there were wooden boards nailed across the front.
He had plenty of time tonight, though.
He smiled again.
Stuff . . .
Good stuff. Cool stuff. More stuff. Nice stuff. More stuff. Stuff
There was nobody else around. The streets were quiet
tonight. He walked over the road, his legs making a swishing
sound as they rubbed together. He put his face to the
gap between two of the wooden boards and breathed in.
He had to be sure. Sometimes their smell could linger
for days, even if they’d moved away. No. They were still in
there. His toys. He leant his weight against the boards,
heard them creak and groan, felt them bend. He moaned
with delight. That was the way to do it. Last night he’d
made the mistake of trying to pull the boards down with
his hands. Better to push. He walked backwards. Put down
his bags. Then moved forward, not exactly running, but
gaining speed. Until . . .
He hit the boards, heard a crack and then sounds on the
other side. Scurrying. Whispered voices. The toys were
He backed off, further this time, then went forward
again, the breath hissing through his nose.
And again. Again and again and again – slow, unthinking,
patient – until at last the wood splintered and fell away
from him and he was inside. In the dark.
Stuff . . . Come on . . . Where’s the cool stuff?
The smell of the toys was more intense now. Filling his
head and making him feel drunk. He closed his eyes and
smacked his lips together, then stuck out his tongue, tasting
the air. They were nearby. If he could just catch two,
maybe three, of the toys, he would have the whole night
ahead of him to play with them before he went to sleep.
After that? How long? A few days maybe before they
But where were they? He stopped moving and stood
very still so that he could listen. There was a scraping
sound, a rattling and banging. More whispers. Ssss-sss-ssssss-ssssssss . . . He moved towards the sound, groping his way through the darkened shop, past the empty shelves
and on into the back.
There they were. Four of them. Trying to open a back
door. They’d barricaded themselves in with no way out.
He spread his arms wide and belched. The toys all turned
round together, their faces white blurs. One of them ran
at him, but he barely felt it. Like a moth, bumping at a
window. They were shouting. Why did they always shout?
Why not just come quietly?
Come on . . . stuff . . . make it easy for me . . .
They were on the small side, easy to carry but easy to
break too. He picked one out, trying not to be distracted
by the others. The smallest one. He backed it into a corner,
while the rest of them battered at his back. Just moths.
There. He’d got it. He picked it up and tucked it into his
armpit, the weight of his arm holding it still. The rest of
them carried on hitting him, shouting, their thin voices
irritating him. Maybe if they’d run they might have got
away from him because they were faster. He would have
tracked them all night, slowly and steadily, following their
scent, and he knew that the smaller ones couldn’t keep
going for long – they always got tired before he did. But
these ones had stayed to fight, so this way it would be easier.
Two of them had sticks. The biggest two. Their blows
fell harmlessly on his flesh, no more than a tickle. He sighed
and swept his free arm wide, flinging one against the wall.
He knew that would break it, but he couldn’t take all of them
home anyway. The smashed toy fell to the floor and he
managed to scoop up the other small one. Two was enough.
He tucked it away neatly in the great folds of his flesh.
Maybe he should try for a third, hold it by the neck. Sometimes they broke, though, if he did that.
No. He’d leave the other one. Maybe it would stay close
and he could come back for it tomorrow.
He sighed again and headed back towards the front.
The fourth toy followed him through the shop. It had
found a bigger stick. It was sharp. The toy was screaming
very loudly as it jabbed at him with the stick. It might
follow him out on to the street, all the way home, and its
noise would attract the others. Then they would fight him
for his treasures.
He stopped, turned and pushed his huge belly against
the toy, forcing it against the wall. He pressed harder and
harder, watching the soft blubber fold itself round the toy
until it was invisible. He could feel it wriggling feebly.
It wriggled and wriggled and then, at last, was still.
The collector moved away and the small body stayed
pressed into his gut. He took it by the hair and trudged out
into the street. It would be no good for playing with, but
he could dump it on his food pile.
And so, with a toy under each arm, he dragged the third
broken toy down the street towards home.
He would leave the carrier bags where they were.
had plenty more. He had stacks and stacks of them among
his stuff . He felt a little pang, though. He hated to leave
The toys under his arms kicked and struggled, but by
the time he had got to his front door they had stopped,
exhausted. He was pleased with himself. This had been a
good night’s work. He had more cool stuff . New toys. They
would keep him happy for a few days. He dreamt of all the
things he would do with them, all the games he would play.
First, though, as soon as he got them inside, he would have
to snap their little legs. He had learnt the hard way that
they could escape if you didn’t do it. Why did they always
try to run away? Why wouldn’t they just stay and play
nicely? Why did they always have to make things so difficult?
And why, in the end, did they always have to break?