On The Beach
Writer : Jamie Delano
Art : Richard Piers Rayner
Art : Mark Buckingham
Art : Mike Hoffman
Cover Artist : Dave McKean
: Lovern Kindzierski
Letters : Todd Klein
: Art Young
: Karen Berger
Issue Synopsis : After the killing of Mighty Mouse and Mrs. McGuire at his Paddington flat, John Constantine's decided to lie low for a while. To this end, he's sought out the peace and quiet of the old seaside town where he used to stay as a kid. John's quiet reminiscence is soon ruined by the cries of protestors, angry that the town has become home to another nuclear power plant. As the protestors clash with pro-nuclear locals, John slips past them and makes his way down to the beach.
John watches a single mother and her children playing on the sand - the only other people on the late-season shoreline. As the happy family put together a kite, John muses bitterly that the police are probably already looking for him in connection with the Paddington murders; even when he saves the Earth from the clutches of Hell, he can't catch a break. John tries to relax, but the ominous sight of the power station and the roar of RAF jets shatter his mood. He's still complaining when two new arrivals make their presence felt: a loudmouthed power station worker called Tony and his girlfriend. Tony complains about the new safety regulations making it impossible to do overtime, and boasts that he's been exposed to radiation dozens of times without effect. Constantine rolls his eyes as the couple start kissing, then turns over and tries to drift away.
Once again he's interrupted, but this time by something infinitely more serious - the walls of the power station are beginning to buckle and crack as a hellish heat breaks its way through, ultimately consuming the power plant in an enormous fireball. Almost instantly, hundreds of seagulls drop from the sky, the first victims of the catastrophe. The survivors of the explosion - John, the mother, her children and the couple from earlier - huddle together and watch in horror as further explosions rip through the plant. Tony the plant worker starts running in the direction of the fire, telling his girlfriend that he needs to get hold of his new work boots before they're burned up.
Dust and debris roll across the sky, merging with the still-forming thunderclouds. Lightning breaks the horizon into black fragments. The mother asks John whether her husband will return soon, but John gives her the brush-off. She begs him to go find her missing partner, and says that the feathers from the dead seagulls are giving their children rashes. After examining the radioactive tumours sprouting up on their faces, he agrees to go look. Climbing over dunes of sand and bone, Constantine makes his way back toward the town only to find it buried beneath ash and dust, and littered with the bodies of dead civilians. As he walks through the rubble, Constantine is set upon by enormous men in HazMat suits who scan him with giger counters and send him back where he came, telling him that he is too heavily irradiated to stay.
With his jeans reduced to tatters and his teeth crumbling in his mouth, Constantine arrives back at the beach and tells the woman that her husband has vanished. She thanks him, and tells him that it doesn't matter - she's decided that humanity can only survive if it evolves, so she's going to make her children grow gills. She takes the frail creatures by the arms and leads them into the sea, skin flaking and hair rotting, until their heads disappear under the water.
Now there are only two left on the beach - John and Tony's girlfriend. The last humans alive. As the girl builds herself a sandhouse, John walks down to the rockpool. He catches his reflection in the water, and sees the sticky welts on his face and the gaping pits of skin that the expose muscle beneath. Realising that time is running out for both him and humanity, John reaches shoulder-deep into the pool, pulling out a hideously mutated creature, all clicking knuckles and slimy skin.
The sun is rising as John returns to the girl. By now, she's built a rudimentary hut out of sand and sticks ready for her boyfriend's arrival. John hesitantly steps inside and offers her the creature. She accepts it, and they are soon settling down to eat. With introductions out of the way, the couple begin to act on their instincts; kissing one another's rotting lips, stroking their patchwork skin, they make love.
The months fall away like dead skin. The girl's belly is swollen with their child, but her body is skeletal and failing. John asks her if the child is alright, and she says it is - she can feel its heads moving around inside her. Constantine is surprised at first, but then reconsiders, saying that two heads are surely better than one.
Time moves on again, and Constantine is helping the birth along. The birth is difficult, and the girl dies just as their child passes into the world. John looks down as his "boy" to see that it is a white, two-headed seal! Nevertheless, he feels a bond of love, and holds it close to him until it slips and slithers out of his grasp and flops outside. Muscles withered and flesh weak, Constantine cannot keep up with his child as it begins its race to the sea. As it picks up speed, dark clouds flood in overhead, and the bones of long-dead seagulls clatter to life. Constantine does his best to frighten off the skeletal birds as they swoop down from on high, but he's unable to save the life of his child as they descend upon it, pecking out its eyes and ripping apart its flesh. Constantine begins his own sprint towards the sea as the birds begin a second attack. They fall upon him in a whirlwind of sharp beaks and merciless hunger, stripping him of clothes, skin, meat and offal until he is just a skeleton, collapsing into the freezing ocean.
With a scream, Constantine awakes. The beach is deserted and he is unharmed. As he watches a flock of seagulls flit away into the horizon, he tells himself to do something about his nightmares- "or, sooner or later, they're going to kill you."
Issue synopsis written by James Wilkinson