's 2019 Horror Write-off:

The Return of Darkedge

Submitted by Gareth Barsby

Gabriel Gobble, the richest turkey in the world, had just been on a fantastic adventure. He and his twin grandnieces Stella and Ella, had gone questing for buried treasure and had sailed oceans, faced pirates, evaded a giant octopus, fought skeletons and braved a river of melted fudge. It was a bizarre adventure and yet for Gabriel, it wasn’t as strange was what happened afterwards. Gabriel, Stella and Ella had just sat down for a celebratory tea when Gabriel’s dachshund butler Woofington walked into the dining room with an announcement.

‘A Mr. Darkedge wishes to see you, sir. He says he wants you to help him with a journey of self-discovery.’

Ella narrowed her eyes. ‘As if we haven’t heard that before.’

‘Indeed,’ said Gabriel, raising his cane, ‘it may be a plot by the Putrid Pooches to steal my money!’ He slowly approached his visitor, Stella and Ella following him, and was greeted by what looked like an armoured Medieval knight whose helmet left his entire face in shadow, save two blazing red eyes. After adjusting his monocle, Gabriel charged towards the knight, cane still raised, until he got a good look at those eyes. Gabriel had faced many demonic creatures with fiery red eyes in his time, and the eyes of this knight didn’t seem to burn with the fires of maliciousness, rather a fire trying to burn away maliciousness.

Seeing more misery than malevolence, Gabriel lowered his cane and scratched his beak in thought.

‘Come on, Uncle!’ cried Ella, raising her arm-wing to the air, ‘Get him.’

Stella shushed her sister and slowly came closer to her great-uncle, keeping a close eye on the hunched-over knight.

‘I suppose I don’t blame you for that reaction,’ said the knight. When he said that, Stella stood right beside her great-uncle, looking at the knight more firmly, as if she too had sensed the sadness of this visitor.

‘What are you here for?’ Gabriel asked, stretching his already-elongated neck.

‘I want you to help me learn something…’

‘If you want to know the secret of my fortune…’

‘Yeah!’ barked Ella, running towards the knight, ‘We know why you’re here!’

‘No,’ said the knight, raising a hand, ‘I want to know about your adventures…’

‘Well,’ said Stella, ‘we’ve just been on one…’

‘Stella!’ hissed her sister.

‘I want to know what makes people want to read your adventures, what has made your character so popular for so many years. You see, as I said, my name is Darkedge, and I at one time only thought the only comic stories worth reading were those as grim and lugubrious as mine. Recently, thanks to a meeting with a heroic team, I have seen there is value in lighter tales.’

‘Well,’ said Gabriel, placing his wing-hand on his chest and raising his head so his beak pointed towards the ceiling, ‘if you want to know why so many people admire yours truly, then I will give a list of…’

‘Wait a minute,’ said Ella, ‘did you just say we’re comic characters? If we are, why don’t I have superpowers?’

‘Well,’ was all Darkedge said before pulling out a comic from one of the many bags on his belt. The cover featured a certain trio of turkeys – two children and an adult with a top hat and monocle – running away from a tidal wave.

Gabriel snatched it away from Darkedge’s hand and grimaced so hard his beak seemed to grow teeth and he was almost certain he would crack his monocle. ‘Someone made a comic about me without permission?’ he snarled, ‘I’ll s…’

Before he could finish his sentence, Ella snatched the comic away herself, smiling as she looked at the panels featuring herself.

‘Well, I suppose that’s a better reaction than most people had to finding they came from comic books. You see, I’ve been travelling to different worlds…’

Both Stella and Ella looked at Darkedge with wide eyes that took up half of their heads, and eager smiles stretching their beaks. Those eyes and smiles grew wider as Darkedge told them of multicoloured alien worlds with gleaming spaceships soaring overhead, majestic castles where dragons and goblins lived and mystical, ethereal realms where one would find spirits. This made Gabriel interrupt and tell the story of his most recent adventure, pirates, octopuses, skeletons, fudge and all.

‘We lost the treasure,’ Ella added, making her great-uncle sigh.

‘But the true treasure is family!’ cried Stella before embracing her sister and great-uncle in a hug. When she released them, both she and Ella asked Darkedge if he could show them any of the worlds he had visited.

‘Yes, do,’ added Gabriel, ‘it should be amusing.’

Gabriel Gobble, the richest turkey in the world, went on another fantastic adventure. He and his twin grandnieces Stella and Ella, visited multicoloured alien worlds with gleaming spaceships soaring overhead, majestic castles where dragons and goblins lived and mystical, ethereal realms where one would find spirits.

When they returned home, Gabriel was left with his beak gaping open and eyes as wide as those of his grandnieces earlier on, with Ella and Stella hopping about in excitement, proclaiming it one of the best family outings ever. Darkedge left and, after promising he’d visit again, jotted down “sense of wonder and discovery” and “lessons about family” on a pad.

On the next page, he doodled various pictures of himself in different costumes, and then wrote “Reboot?”