Monday, October 25, 2010
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
Down by the docks, there are these warehouses. You know the kind, the kind drug dealers use to peddle their shit, the kind that cops stake out for catching drug dealers. Well, there's one of them down there that nobody even wants to go to any more. Pretty much everyone says it's haunted or something. I wonder if they are right.
This one, this one warehouse way by the east dock 3 used to be like a meat house. It has all the metal doors and shit, the roll-up kind that trucks back up to, you know the ones. Then inside there are like a bunch of big rooms with those conveyor-hook systems that they'd hang up the big carcasses on and like it would go into the refrigeration rooms or out into the loading docks or whatever, right? Well, one time we had a rave we wanted to do, and the way I saw it, where better to have a rave than a fucking haunted warehouse, right?
So we brought in my brother's sound equipment, and set the place up one day. Speakers, lights, the works. We could seriously blast some fucking waves with the shit my brother had, right? But like, the best party about the place was that the acoustics were fucking wicked. The reverb was delicious, man. You could FEEL the music everywhere in that place. Well, everywhere except that one room.
The conveyor rotation shit worked in every room except the one in the back. That door was stuck or some shit, and the little hole in the wall thing where the conveyor goes through had been boarded up. We didn't know why, but it was far enough back that we didn't care. We wired up all the other rooms with speakers and shit, and at like ten or so people started showing up. We'd charge like five bucks a pop for each person, and the place was big enough that we definitely made back the money we spent in like two hours and a fuckton more after that.
At around 2, though, that's when the music shorted out. I went back to look what happened-- someone probably kicked a cable out or some shit, right? But that's definitely not the case-- the room next to that one boarded-up room was just trashed. The speakers were kicked in, and like seven or eight people were lying face-down like they'd OD'd on something or whatever. It only hit me like a few seconds afterward that the door to that room had been opened outward, like toward you when you're looking at it.
I only looked inside for just a second before I had to start running. Like you know when you notice something and it processes in your head before you understand it, and your body starts to react before your cognitive system tells you what it's reacting to? It was kind of like that. I was like halfway out of the warehouse before I finally knew that I was being chased. This guy, he was like all covered in shredded up clothes, right? All bloodied up and had like two fucking huge meat hooks, one in each hand.
The police said they found me in a little rowboat in the middle of the bay, but I don't really remember anything past the hook-guy turning and catching one of the girls in the eye socket with his fucking hook. They said I was like mumbling and rocking back and forth. I don't even know.
The news still says the guy's running loose in the city, and his hit number is up to 63 right now. That's a lot of corpses, man. I wonder if he takes them back to that warehouse, hangs them up on the fucking hooks there?
Friday, July 16, 2010
Friday, July 9, 2010
I have a bad habit. It's particularly bad in this day and age, when the tools are easy to get and the stuff itself is on every corner. I've been in and out of jail for my bad habit, in and out of the hospital for my bad habit, and in and out of sanity for my bad habit. I'd love to stop, really. I would.
But some habits are just hard to break.
There's a vein that runs along the inside crook of your elbow, called the median cubital vein. It's pretty big, pretty easy to spot. You get to it best when you have your elbow bent. This vein goes straight back to the heart, a clear shot to that big wiggling muscle inside your ribcage that makes you tick. That's where the game starts.
One tiny little pinprick, and then you've got a full-access doorway to that marvellous crimson stream people so often waste. Into that doorway, you know, I'm quite fond of introducing various things. I'd done the usual rounds of drugs-- ketamine, opioids, depressants, you know the lineup. Nothing really did me the good song, though, like Red Sunrise. I don't remember who it was that showed me the first time, because I was probably high off my bucket, but after that, man... After that, Red Sunrise was my new god.
In its base form, my dealer said, it's a strong hallucinogen used for ages by old monks and priests to “contact God.” Well, I knew that whatever it was that caused the geezers in monasteries to write the crazy shit they did was going to be good enough for me to get a ticket on the electric flapjack, and I dropped a wad of bills on this shit every time I saw the guy. It came in little bottles, almost like test tubes, with rubber corks jammed into the top. The stuff itself was a dark green, almost black until you held it up to a bright light. Reminded me of when you put a shit-ton of Kool-Aid into a tiny bit of water.
And it hits you like a brick to the temple, man. You go out for hours of real time but it feels like years of your life go by in these fucking sick trips. It turns your arm green for a while, but that's a small price to pay for what you see in these walks, man. With me, I'm always walking through this field of flowers, but the flowers are thousands of tiny human faces, and they are all screaming and biting their tongues off but I can't hear them because I'm not listening, and the ground is made of bone dust and the air is heavy with a sickly-sweet smoke. And man, every time, I always meet this dude with four eyes, two on top of each other on both sides of his face, and he's got these teeth, man. Fucking wicked teeth.
And he tells me secrets. He tells me where to find more Red Sunrise, always the same guy selling it. He tells me who people are and what they do. He's like a fucking voyeur's dream. He tells me where to go and where to look to see the hottest shit go down, he tells me which girls are hot to do what I like. He makes me promise to him, every time, though, that for every secret he tells me I have to give him a pint of blood.
A body only has like 5 or 6 liters of blood at one time, so that's only like 34 secrets for a liter. And a liter is a lot of blood, you know? A lot to drop all at one time.
So I got wise on this, yeah? I started stocking up.
...what, you think I'd use my own blood? Fuck that shit. Better yours than mine, fucker.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
"Well, that was plenty enough for me. I gave that big ugly oaf one good look in the eye and then socked him in the gut as hard as I could, and let off a charge through my glove that sent him reeling. Now he doesn't bother the first-years any more," boasted the boy on the table, his pose a heroic-looking one, even if sort of childish. The other kids that had formed a small crowd around the edge of the table looked on with eager eyes, wanting more to the story, more about how this strong, heroic second-year had single-handedly saved all of their hides from the biggest bully in the whole academy.
Their fervor was cut short, however, by the girl sitting on the overhanging tree branch. "Did you tell them about how Cassian and I had to come peel you off the floor after you were done with your 'beat-down?' Because I think I missed the part where Noah didn't have his tech stuff and that's why you won," she said casually, brushing her painted nails against the hem of her artificer's jacket. A murmured chuckle spread through the crowd. She looked down at the top of the boy's head.
"What? No way, you guys, don't listen to her. I was putting all kinds of hurt on that Noah kid!" he started again, but the attention he'd garnered was diminished greatly by his embarrassment. He sighed. "Another day, another crowd lost," he mumbled.
The girl snickered. "Score up to date: world, one; Lywell, zero. Better luck next time, Ell," she said, and dropped to the tabletop to pat him on the shoulder. "But don't feel too bad-- the next group of transfers is coming in tomorrow, so you'll be able to ensorcell them with your tales of harrowing bully-beating as long as Cass and me aren't around."
"Yeah, thanks, Iwaen. You're a great friend," said Lywell, brushing himself off and plopping down on the edge of the table. "You always ruin my chances of gaining a reputation with the new kids. How am I going to gather an army of arcanists to take over the world if nobody takes me seriously?"
Iwaen sat down next to him, put her elbow on her knee, and chuckled. "You could always build some, mister Arcano-technician. An army of those little brass mice you like building so much, now that would be a sight to see." She chuckled, opened her lunch bag.
"Ha, ha. Very funny," replied Lywell. "Once I get done with this round of tours, I'll be off of detention duty. Wanna hit the cafeteria after? It'll only take a little while, I promise," he said. "Call Cassian, let him know too?"
The girl zipped up her bag and turned, a chunk of brown, seedy bread hanging out of her mouth, and nodded. Since the transfers were coming in all that week, every day was a half-day so that the newcomers could go through the school without the inconvenience of classes being disturbed. It being a half day was more than enough reason for Iwaen to believe that Lywell would invite her and Cassian to lunch at the cafeteria, and she knew she could weasel out of paying for it if she just pulled the right strings.
“Listen up, everyone, I'm only going to explain this once. If you have questions, ask me after I'm done talking and maybe I will answer them. All right, here we go. As I'm sure you know, there are three sections of Bodruin Academy, and each section houses their respective magic classes and students.” The courtyard fountain was a perfect place to give this spiel, because you could see all the other sections without walking through them.
“The east wing, Vil-Caery, that's the Arcana History area. You newbies who use rituals, chants, or any other 'Olde Methodes' will be staying over there. The north wing, Vil-Tirro, is where the Artificers do their thing. If any of you guys are the kind to use magic weapons or tools that don't draw from Mana gems, that's your home up there. Finally, The west wing Vil-Gonns, well...” said Lywell, brushing his jacket off. “That's my territory, and the territory of any other Arcano-Technicians that might be in this crowd. That's the fancy word for people who make items that run off Mana gems.”
He hopped off the fountain and turned toward the south. “Down south of here is the market. They are not technically part of the school, but they do business exclusively with the school and its students. That's us. Yeah, I know it sounds stupid, but the school makes us buy all of our own supplies for schoolwork, be it scrap metal or parchment or whatever. They do, however, give us an allowance of 500 Seeds a month, which, for studious, diligent people, is enough to buy your stuff. That's assuming you never want to have any fun in this place.” The transfer students listened closely; some perked their ears up at “diligence,” others at “fun,” and some, like the small first-year up in the front ring of the small crowd, were enraptured by just Lywell's voice.
Well, just his voice, and his scruffy, short black hair, and his thin-but-toned body shape, and his bright, almost glowing green eyes, and... The girl raised her hand.
Lywell considered ignoring her, but she did not look like the kind to ask a lot of annoying questions. With a sigh, he pointed toward her and squinted to read her name badge. “Fraelya Attebery, is it? What?” he said, and mock-impatiently put his hand on his hip.
The girl shook for a second, but then took a deep breath and spoke. “Mister Braewyn,” she began, but Lywell cut her off there.
“Just Lywell is enough, thanks. Carry on.”
“L-l-lywell... Um... How do you know what class you belong in?” She twirled a piece of her long white hair in her fingers nervously. Honestly, she'd never known that there were different ways to do magic until her father saw her having a conversation with her reflection in a mirror and immediately whisked her away to Bodruin. It was all so new to her.
Lywell stared blankly for a moment. “You... you don't know what class you are?” he asked, truly taken aback. When he'd been taken to Bodruin, he'd known since forever that he was Arcano-Tech. Cassian's parents were both Arcana Historians, so it was pretty set what he'd be, and Iwaen... well, Iwaen sort of chose what she'd do by herself. She could have gone in any of the three ways, but for one reason or another Artificy caught her by the tail.
He kept his stare locked for just another second, and then shook his head. “Well, I guess you should talk to the headmaster or something,” he said, scratching his head. “But really, how do you not know what class you are?”
Whether he meant it to be embarrassing or not, Fraelya turned tomato red and looked away, busied herself with her curls. With a last sigh, Lywell motioned to the South again. “The headmaster's offices are also down that way, by the lake. If you need anything like medical attention or whatever, that's where you should go.” He looked at his watch, an ornate silver clock face attached to a silver wrist-bracer he made himself. The hands snapped into one o'clock position.
“...and here's where you and I part ways, newbies. I'll catch you guys later,” he said, and turned to skip off to the cafeteria. Something grabbed his wrist, however, and when he looked back, Fraelya had latched onto him. She looked insecure, scared. Obviously something like this would be natural for a frail-looking girl like her being tossed into a grand and new place with no connections.
“...take me with you...” she muttered.
For one long second, Lywell contemplated the results of bringing along the small white-haired girl. “...I'm going to the cafeteria. You can come if you want,” he finally said, and shook his hand free. “Meeting friends, so you'd better not slow me down, you hear?”
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
The game was an easy one-- you had to find something with which to protect yourself, and then still be alive when time ran out. Well, easy in explanation, sure. But when I was there, boy, wasn't nothing easy about it. Lots of people got killed in there, and nobody was the wiser. Hell, I even had to cut some men up myself, back then. Hell of a good deal of "therapy" that was.
You'd wake up in a haze, likely from the heavy dose of whatever they pumped into your veins, in one of the rooms with the door locked. I never woke up in the same one twice, but it was always a room in east block 3 that I'd get. Some people would say they got the same room once or twice, but I never did. The room you got probably still had the results of the last therapy session that happened in it laying about, so you had to hope you didn't step in it or anything. You just waited for the door to open, the intercom to announce the time limit.
I hid a lot, ran away a lot, but you can't run forever from the things they would send after you. I got to know east block 3 pretty well, though, so I could usually get to the kitchen area, pick up one of the big knives that were hanging on the magnet bar over the stove. I tried a broken broom handle once, but you don't have a chance unless you can draw blood. These things were really unstable in the head, you know? Some people said they were ghouls come back from the dead by way of some science-magic marriage, others said they weren't ever human to begin with. All I knew was that sometimes I recognized them, the leathery faces drawn tightly back into a permanent toothy grin and the eyes wild and bloodshot.
They moved pretty fast a lot of the time, and they'd spot you from down a hallway or wherever, and just like that they'd be all over you, biting and tearing and scratching and kicking. Doc once said that they represented the bad parts of the human mind, and that by killing them you're symbolically killing those parts and making yourself better, but that was a load of shit. I'd seen movies before I got "admitted," I connected two and two to figure out just what was up with these previous patients. That's what they were, you know, patients that disappeared for some reason or another some three weeks before. You could tell which ones had been worked on the longest; they were the ones with the brittlest skin, the least blood in them. Their eyes were shriveled up, but somehow they still saw. And when they saw, boy did they see.
I don't know how long I was in that place, but we never found a way out. Honestly I'm surprised there even was a way out at all, let alone a way in. When the SWAT team or whatever finally burst in, though, I thought, "Hot damn, finally a way out of this hell-hole." But then, of course, having seen and done what we'd all seen and done, we obviously could not be let back out into the real world, now could we, doc?
This is something a friend told me a while back. He lived in Los Angeles at the time this happened to him, but he says that it could happen to anyone, anywhere, if they are not careful.
One day he and some friends of his were at his place drinking and smoking, like typical college students do. One of them thought it would be a good idea to do some graffiti on the administration building's steps, and of course everyone else agreed, because nobody disagrees when they are high and drunk, I guess. Anyway, so they got a bunch of spraypaint and hopped into my friend's car.
The campus was only like five minutes away, but they took the back way around so they would not get caught by the campus police. Here's where it gets weird.
On the backroad, they were driving along, when suddenly the truck lurched like it had run over something. He slammed on the brakes, and got out to see what he had hit. It felt too big to be a squirrel, but that was pretty much everything that was out there at that time of night, right? Well, it turns out he ran over this little brown dog, splattered it all over the street. I'm talking, guts and blood and everything, man. It was probably hella gross.
So my friend starts freaking out, and he gets back in the truck, starts it up, and starts going again. The other guys are like "What did we hit?" and he just says they hit a squirrel, a big one.
Sure enough, though, like two minutes down the road the truck jumps again, like they hit something else. Again, he hits the brakes, but this time he just leans out the window and looks back.
It looks like the same fucking dog they just hit like half a mile back, but it's different this time. Bigger, somehow? Or like, maybe it's closer or something. He said he couldn't really tell, because he was drunk, but it was DEFINITELY the same dog. He's like "Fuck this," and floors it, pulls a U-turn and rockets back toward his place. He won't say anything to the other guys except that he thinks it's not a good idea to be driving while he's as drunk as he is.
When they pass the spot that they hit the dog the first time, though, there's just a big wet spot on the street. No dog, no nothing. But then he looks back up at the road in front of him just in time to see a huge brown dog on his hood, staring at him for a second. He veered off the road and rolled his truck twice, broke his collarbone and messed up some of the other guys in the car too.
He told the police what happened, but they went to look for the dog that he hit, and all they found was a big wet spot, the same way as before. On the way back to the crash site, though, one of the police cars spun off to the side of the road too, and the radio crackled when that officer radio'ed in that he had hit a dog or something.
That was plenty enough to scare my friend sober, and he could not get to the police station fast enough, DUI and all. He transferred colleges up to Washington as soon as he could, and never drove that back road again. He says sometimes, though, he can still see some little brown dog in his mirrors when he's driving, or sees a big wet splatter on the road.
Now, I'd have called bullshit on this story until the other day when we were heading to the liquor store and he hit something in the road. Sure as god-damn, it was a little brown dog. Think this fucking thing is following him? I don't even know what to make of it, but now I'm starting to see it here and there too, all splattered all over the floor in the chemistry building at night or whatever. This place is fucked up, man. That dog followed him.
He and his sister were the "bad kids" at school. Whenever something bad happened, they were blamed. The desks were all stacked up in the corner? Blame the twins. Windows were broken? The twins did it. No matter what it was, it was always the twins.
They spent a lot of time in time-out together, but that was all right. They seemed to not mind the inactivity, as long as they were together. If the teachers tried to split them up, though, they would each throw FITS, they'd scratch and bite and scream and cry until they were put back together. Then, just like that! They would be completely content, silent, blank again. The other kids talked, but the twins did not care. Or, if they did, they showed no indication of it.
When the twins got blamed for the last incident, where one of the third-grade teachers fell down the stairs and broke both her legs, though, that was when they started to exhibit behaviour they had not been seen exhibiting before. He would fidget, furrow his brow, wipe his eyes a lot. She would pace, back and forth, along the edge of the time-out box, eying the students on the playground in a manner that can only be described as "hungrily." It was not all the time; only when they were blamed for something did they start acting strange. It would last for an hour or so, and then they would be the stoic twins again, blank and still.
After school one day, Thomas Belkin, the class president, made a point of it to push the both of them out of his way while he was leaving the classroom. She fell over, hit her elbow on a desk. Thomas looked shocked for a moment, but then brought his bravado back. He was the class president-- what could they do to him?
He wondered exactly what had been done to him when the girl's brother was suddenly in front of him, his eyes narrowed, his fists balled up. "You've done it for the last time," he had said through his clenched teeth. "You watch. Tell your mommy you'll be home late tonight," he said, and then he helped his sister up, and they were gone, out the door, down the street toward their house.
Thomas, visibly shaken, suddenly felt ill. While it was very much time to go home, he instead made his way to the nurse's office, explained to her that he had a stomachache and that she had better call his mother to come pick him up. He didn't feel good enough to walk home.
Some fifteen minutes passed before his mother arrived in her white minivan, typical of the "mother of an honour student" that her bumper sticker proclaimed her to be. All the while, Thomas started feeling sicker and sicker. He had developed a fever, started sweating. His stomach hurt, and he did not know why.
He could not eat dinner that night, and was just barely able to hold down the glasses of water he so often wanted for. His fever was high, he was dizzy, and all he wanted in the world was to lie down. So he did, in his room, his race-car bed seemingly tilting side-to-side as his eyes swam in his head.
In this manner he lay, his body trying to fight off the fever, break its hold on him, when all of a sudden the grandfather clock in the living room struck one o-clock. The window was shut, he knew, but a wind billowed through his room, and then at the foot of his bed stood the twins.
No, it wasn't them. It was, but it wasn't. Something was different-- were the girl's eyes glowing, was her mouth full of long teeth, or was he just hallucinating? Was the boy really made of a seething mass of worms, or was that just his imagination?
"What did you do?" he croaked, his voice stifled by the fever and delerium. She smiled, the razor-sharp teeth glinting in the red light from his digital clock.
"That's the wrong question, Tommy," said the girl, sliding up close to his face.
"What will we do, is the right one," added the boy, creeping up the other side of the bed.
The police tape yellow was a stark contrast to the black and red and pink that was the boy's bedroom the next morning. It was reported that he'd been attacked by animals, because that was the only logical explanation for the state the remains of his body were in. Animals, of course. But what they did not tell the reporters was what was scrawled in the poor boy's organ juices and blood on the hardwood floor in front of his bed.
In big, messy letters.
Everyone had heard the rumours about her, those tantalising tales that told of how you could ask her any question, and she'd tell you the answer... for a price. Sure, same old stuff everyone's heard a hundred times, right? Well, Gabriella Wallace certainly fit the profile:
Long, scraggly grey hair that went down to her hips; fingers like bones, the skin just hanging off of them like a deflated balloon; broken, crooked teeth. She even lived in that house in the woods, from which everyone swore issued faint cries at night. What intrigued me most about her, however, was that she never went outside without her hood drawn up over her head, shielding her eyes from being seen. Summer nights that sweltered with humidity, late Autumn evenings rife with lightning bugs, no matter the day-- she'd never go outside without her hood.
Curiosity got the best of me one day, you know. It always does. I got off of work, and on the way home I passed the road that led into the woods, through those somehow-terrifying trees that grew just on the city line.
Of course, it was natural. I had to go back and take the road through the woods. Just to look. Not to stop.
So I drove through those trees, you know the kind. The kind that make you slow down, make your eyes dart back and forth to catch every movement in them, make your blood pressure rise for no reason. Then, just like that, I was driving past the footpath that led up to the old house. I was just going to take a look. I wasn't going to get close, I wasn't going to knock or anything, Just look.
I locked my car, stuck my keys into my pocket. Only a quick look, I told myself, only to see the place. When my knuckles hit the door, though, I was already in too deep. The wooden door was cracked, warped, rotting, but it swung open slightly when I tapped on it, just like in all the movies.
I was only going to take a look inside, and if there was anything there I was going to book it back to my car, hit the gas, and get out of there. Nothing more. But then, how many promises to myself had I broken already? Just how daring did I think I was?
hrough one of the old, crumbling door frames, I could see flickering light, like that given off by a candelabra. No, don't go that way, of course that's the wring way to go, I told myself, but there is no impetus like a man's morbid curiosity to push him from behind into the room. In the room, dimly lit by the flickering light of five candles on a wooden table, sat that old crone Wallace, in a rocking chair by an empty, cold hearth. I stumbled a bit, startled, and started to try to find words of excuse, something to forgive myself for intruding, and then run like hell, but before I even had a chance, the hooded lady motioned to the table, to a chair which sat where no chair was just seconds ago.
I should have known better, in hindsight, but then, of course hindsight is twenty-twenty, isn't it? I barely even hesitated! I just waltzed over to the table and sat down.
You're not too uncomfortable, are you? Good. I think it's difficult to listen to stories when one is uncomfortable. Let's continue.
She was on the other side of the table, where she was not, just a second ago. I could only see her mouth, twisted and wrinkled, under her hood, but it was definitely just like I had heard-- cracked, dry, old. A crooked tooth poked out from one side. All I could do is stare. Don't you think that's impolite?
"Ask," she said, her voice reminding me of fingernails on old paper. But ask what? I hadn't actually expected anything like this! I didn't think beforehand of what I would ask if she WERE there, if she were even real. My throat was really, really dry. You know how it gets, when you are about to talk, and suddenly you choke?
I thought about it for a second, and the first question that popped into my head was "What are you?" Foolish, I know. Such questions should be left for AFTER she grants you the magic wish or hands you the pot of gold or whatever, but I wasn't really thinking too far ahead. She smiled, her rows of crooked, broken teeth like a razor-wire fence behind her grey lips.
"A collector," she replied, and she leaned up just enough for me to see her eyes. Her eyes! God, I'd never seen something like them before. They were red, black, decaying! Like some sort of pus-spewing corpuscle whose very existence was a sin!
"And just now, child, I'm in need of new ones," she said. But! She didn't take mine, no. As you can see, I still have both of my eyes, clear and healthy. No, that's the rub: she's got herself a helper, now. And let's be honest-- you don't really need your eyes, do you? Honestly?
You're not too uncomfortable, right? The straps are not too tight? Good, good. Let's begin the extraction. This might hurt.
Yeah, go ahead and laugh, fuckers. Once they find where you've put me, there will be some shit to wade through before you see the light of day again.
You want information? Sure, I'll give you all you want. It's not like it will help anyway. I come from an organization that has no official name, the organization that you guys seem to want to find so bad. What were you calling them again? Right, “Antebellum.” Something like irony might be the right term for that. We're the ones that you keep getting reports of missing persons about. We're the ones you hear stories about, we're the ones that distribute the unmarked video tapes you keep finding.
Yes, those are real videos. We don't use any special effects or whatever. We set up a camera, film the acolytes doing their thing, and then cut that straight to tape. Don't worry, you'll never see anyone you know on those tapes; we do a really good job of picking up people who won't be missed. It's the people who watch those videos that you'd likely have seen before.
Pretty much every sad soul that comes looking has watched one of those videos, wants in on the activities. They want in for the rush, the fetish feed, the feeling of power. Whatever their reason is, it's pretty sad that they think they can just waltz right in uninitiated and just scuffle about with someone's organs on their head. You know how long it takes before you can even watch someone's sacrifice? Six years. Before that time, you're just a shadow, an uninitiated shadow. You do what the acolytes say, you don't question it. You question it, and people start to forget about you.
You ever heard of the collective unconscious? Yeah, that's a load of shit, but I'll tell you what is real. The Flow. We call it something else, but it's easier to explain to people like you if we just say the Flow. It's the reservoir of memories from which the human mind draws its experiences. Something happens to you, your head makes note of it and then stores that memory in the Flow. Sometimes it reaches for a memory, and it grabs something else instead-- that's what you call deja vu or hallucinations or visions or whatever.
Well, we know how to get into the Flow and mess with the memories that are floating around there. When someone dies, their memories just get set off to float around wherever. The way we do it, we can sometimes catch those dead memories and tie them to the memories of the living, causing what we call Backfeed. You tie even one dead memory to the Flow, and people start forgetting stuff about that person. You tie all of them to it, and it's like that person never existed at all.
No, it isn't “mind control,” you stupid fucks. This is a lot deeper than any hypnosis or whatever. Why the fuck do you think nobody can remember who it is on those videos? Kind of a pity that you're still standing still, though. It'd be a lot smarter to have moved me somewhere else a while back. You call us “Antebellum?” I guess for you, the fight hasn't started yet. There's four of you, and hundreds of us. It's cute that you think you stand some chance. Oh, kill me, is that the plan?
God, you people are dumb. It does not matter if you kill me, we're still going to erase all four of you from existence. No, it is not a pleasant experience. Fine, fine, don't believe me. It'll make it all the more entertaining when you're the one on the table, the knives and saws just begging to be whetted on your skin. Yeah, I've done two or three of them. One of them, a woman about twenty two or so, stayed conscious for far too long for her own good. Made it terribly difficult to grab her memories, you know? I bet you do.
She was a stunning girl, kept yelling that her brother was a detective, that they'd find us, that we'd all be killed for the things we do. We actually missed one of her memories, sadly. You might have a faint recollection of having a sister if you try to remember hard enough. No matter how hard you try, though, you won't remember anything else--
That was unwise, detective. How do you expect me to give you information if you break my jaw? As if it mattered anyway. You're still not believing me on that, huh? You think you're just going to walk into the subway tunnels after you toss me into a prison cell, find us all huddled around a Crowley book, and arrest us all? How cute.
I'll make sure you stay awake the longest, detective.
I have been asked to tell my story to those of you who will listen, and it looks to me that several of you will. Regardless, whether you do or not, you're all damned to hell anyway. If you'd do me the credit of removing these straps, it would perhaps make the story more interesting; I can hardly tell an engaging story while restrained like this.
Some ten years ago, I was a simple graduate student, majoring in philosophy with a specialty in religious thought. I'd read everything, from Plato to Socrates, from the Pope to Manson, and I thought I had a strong grasp on the human psyche in terms of beliefs on the afterlife. It was common to find me asleep in the lower levels of the library, on top of some dusty tomes of classical thought or the like. I began to write my dissertation paper, specifically on the belief in “Extra-Planar Beings.”
In this paper I sought to make plain that the belief in such beings has been around since the beginning of time in most accounts, and strangely similar in their structures. Many cultures believe in a sort of being called “demon,” or “dæmon,” or the like, and most all of them believed this sort of being to be not only evil and likely connected with the darker side of deism, but also controllable if one has a strong will and the right tools. The Lesser Key of Solomon actually has a long portion describing the sigils of each of a number of demons, their names, and how one might go about exploiting their abilities when they have been bound.
I sought to prove, however, that even though the belief in such beings has remained burned in the human psyche for aeons, the belief held no real backing in reality. Religious fanatics like the Pope were the only reason such beliefs still even existed and were not erased long ago, and these procedures to summon and bind demons were completely without base. This is what I thought.
To further prove this sort of creature a farce, I endeavoured to summon one myself, on video tape, to be used as evidence against their existence. I set up the binding circle with the chalk and the runes, just as my material described. I took all the “magickal” precautions that the books advised. I even prepared an offering to this demon, should he actually appear and I find myself wrong. I chose the demon labeled XXV, whose name I dare not utter here.
At the first light of the full moon, then, I began this ceremony. The chants, the incense, the silver symbols and everything else that was required. I was fully convinced that there would be no explosions of sulfuric stench, no flashes of light, no demons whatsoever, and was just about to give up, clean up, and stop the tape, when something actually stirred in the center of the circle, and then there was a sudden shock-wave feeling that threw me off my feet. Of course, I should have known better.
There was nothing in the circle, though there was that scent so aptly described as rotten eggs that lingered in the air. I had no explanation as to the event until some time afterwards, when I cal;med down enough to watch the tape. Just as described in the Lesser Key, for a split-second in the center of the circle I could see what appeared to be a great fanged canine, some seven feet tall at the shoulder, with great feathered wings sprouted from its back that extended to a wide wingspan that by rights could stretch from this side of the room to the other.
The mouth of this dog was opened wide, and was flecked with pieces of flesh that dripped with blood. Its eyes were like lanterns burning with copper dust in them, and its body rippled with powerful muscles that looked to be able to rend steel in two. It was only on the video for a single frame, and after that the colours on the film were distorted and washed-out. As one might expect, I was physically shaken by this occurrence, and wondered if all this time I had been wrong.
It only truly hit me later, when I went to wash my face. As I looked up into the mirror, the steam rising up around me, I saw not only my own reflection, but that of the dog-beast that I had seen on the film. It looked just like I had seen it on the screen, but to see it with my own eyes was perhaps too much for my constitution, and I fainted and hit my head on my sink.
I awoke some hours later, with a throbbing headache and my eyes seeming to deceive me. My bathroom walls were covered in sticky red, and on the mirror was scrawled, “قتلتهم كلّ .” Arabic, which, roughly translated, read “Kill them all.”
Before I knew what I was doing, I had taken up a kitchen knife and cut open my pet cat, and splayed her innards across my floor. My hands shook, my sight was tinted red, and I wanted more, I wanted to end more lives. Somehow I pulled myself back together, though, and terrified, I curled up in the corner until sleep overtook me.
The next morning I endeavoured to clean up my studio, which by that time was covered in half-dried blood and pieces of cat body. I did not know what I had done, what I had mistook, but what I did know what that I had indeed found that there was something to the belief behind these demon figures. Every time I looked in the mirror, I saw this beast behind me, and every time I saw this beast I was overcome with that same rage that filled my body the first time I saw him. Those fangs, those eyes, they haunted me wherever I went. A cursory glance at a storefront's glass display, and he would be there, and someone would die, and I would flee, my hands dripping with blood.
By my hands, nearly seventy people have died on the streets of Rome. I've spoken with priests, with cardinals, with ministers, and they could do me no good. Even the Catholic Church's exorcists could not draw from me the fire that burned in my chest when I saw this beast. Finally, to make it stop, I decided that I would have to stop seeing at all, and using a screwdriver, I put out my eyes, so that I would never see his reflection again.
It's a pity that he's all I can see now, in my head, in the darkness. Thank you, by the way, for listening. I'm sure I'll make a textbook example of the “deranged serial killer.” You're only too kind to have regarded my story. Also thank you for releasing these straps; it will make my job much easier on the person I catch first.
It is nice of you to think of my health, friend. God knows I have been writing for far too long. Perhaps I will be afforded some rest for a moment, and I will explain to you my trouble. I shall start from the beginning, so that you may understand everything as fully as possible, and so that I may not seem mad myself.
My parents had divorced when I was four or five, over my father's having caught mother in a tryst with another man, and I lived with my father for a while. I think he went a little bit mad after the divorce, though, because he'd shut himself up in his office and just write letters all day, tapping on his typewriter until the bell sounded, pushing it back over, and tapping again. He'd only ever come out for food and trips to the bathroom. He had everything delivered by post: the milk, the bread, the meats and cheeses... He'd make breakfast, eat it up quickly, and then run back to his room and write more. He must have written thousands of pages of letters, stuffing them into envelopes and jamming their bulk into the post box every day, mumbling to himself.
I never found out to whom he was writing until a decade after he died, and the owners of the house he used to occupy contacted me about the enormous stack of mail that had come in for my father. He had written all of those letters to a single place, every single one of them addressed to P____ avenue, number 447, to one mister Graves. All of the letters were marked “return to sender,” and had never been opened, though the postmarks were from some eleven, twelve years ago. The family wrote in their letter to me that the postmaster had pulled up, unloaded some ten boxes of old letters at their door, and then promptly left to go to the next house on the route, as though there were nothing unusual about such a volume of letters being delivered all at once.
What I have neglected to tell you, dear friend, is that while I lived with my father, I saw a great many things I could only explain as fancy, as my mother had often conditioned me to think. Attached to every letter he wrote I saw what I can describe only as an amorphous shadow, a mist or smoke that surrounded the envelope and flowed as though somehow, even being mist, it had some semblance of life in its form. The more he wrote, the darker they became, and the more I questioned my own eyes as I saw him drag that spectral fog to the door and push it into the post box.
His health, too, diminished as the shadows grew darker, until one morning I awoke to find him laying over his typewriter, his face drawn back and pale, and his eyes turned a milky grey colour, as though he had poured ink into them. The moment I saw this disfigured farce of my father, I was immediately struck with a fever, and had to be taken to a hospital. The whole while that I was in the doctors' care, I could see a dark, shimmering figure that reminded me vaguely of that terrifying visage my father wore on his dying breath.
Sometimes it would whisper in my ear, such terrible but yet unintelligible words as to make me shudder for minutes at a time. Sometimes it would touch my head, and I would be wracked with ache until the morning. This apparition was malevolent, cruel, and unrelenting, even until the end of my stay at the hospital.
I lived with my mother after this, until I was able enough to work, and afford a place of my own. Still, no matter where I went, I could not escape the figure that followed me. My work was disturbed from time to time, but I told the manager that it was anemia, and that I would be fine given a few moments. It was in this state of ill-being that I continued for some years before I was made aware of the letters returning to the tenants of my father's old house.
With reluctance, I went to the house and took the boxes from them. As I did so, I could not help but notice the two children of the house, twins with blonde curls reaching their shoulders and nary more than four or five years old, staring intently at the boxes as I took them away, almost with a look of fear. I brought the letters back to my own house, and stowed them in my basement for lack of something better to do with them. I would attend to them later, but for then, I had not the time to meddle in my father's old letters.
Less than a week after I retrieved the boxes I received a message from the coroner's office, saying that my mother had passed away. Now both of my parents had died, and so it was my own burden to deal with the family matters such as my mother's burial. At the funeral, the figure that followed me everywhere even was silent and stood still at the side of the hole wherein the coffin was lowered, and then covered up. As the last shovel of dirt was replaced on the top, however, I swear I detected a hint of a sinister smile on the barely-distinguishable face of the spectre.
A month passed before I was finished with the familial duties. I had sold my mother's house to some new tenants, I had seen to her proper burial, I had made sure that her will was carried out as she wished. Only then was I granted some time to deal with those curious boxes of letters in my basement.
The first letter I opened was the earliest one, perhaps his first letter written in his madness. Both sides of the paper were covered from edge to edge with the same words, those of my mother's name. Seven pages of the same behaviour accompanied the first. The second letter was exactly the same as the first one, and the third, and the fourth. Gradually as the letters progressed, however, there were mistakes in the lettering, the spacing, smearing of text, and a general disorderly feeling about them, until I reached nearly the last letter.
As I opened it, the spirit behind me gave a loud screeching sound, so loud and shrill that I was forced to cover my ears with my hands to preserve my hearing. My first thought was, “The neighbors will hear! Surely this will amount to trouble,” but a minute later the spectre stopped its wail, and traversed to the typewriter I had inherited.
The letter I held said only two words: “Kill her.”
My eyes swam for a moment. To what manner of madness had my father been subject? Why had he written these hundreds of letters? What did he wish to accomplish? To whom did he try to send them?
The last letter lay unopened on the table. My father was mad from the moment he and mother separated, I had no doubt. With a trembling hand, I picked up the last letter, broke the seal, and opened it. This was written by hand, in the looping script I was certain was my father's, but also in those lines was betrayed tension, fear, anger, and remorse. It said:
“You may take my son as payment.”
I was mortified, sickened at this letter's content. Immediately I resolved to ascertain to whom these letters had been sent. This mister Graves would meet with the authorities, I would make certain. I traveled to the place the address indicated, my revolver in my pocket and my cane in my hand. When my carriage pulled up to the place, however, I lost all resolve to descend from it, and instead beckoned my driver to return home.
The address indicated was that of an old, burned-out and abandoned building that once housed the Graves and Fate Typewriter company. It had burned down nearly three decades ago, according to the newspapers. Some of the less respectable sources say that the company was a ruse and that the building was actually a mob front business, and that everyone who was in the building when it caught fire mysteriously disappeared.
So I have been at this for nearly three weeks now. Since I opened that letter I can barely stop typing on this infernal machine without the spectre wailing again. Tap tap tap tap ding, tap tap tap tap ding. The very machine upon which my father died is drawing the life from me with each keystroke. I know not what has happened to me, but only that I, too, will perish on this machine, thanks to my father's insane desire for revenge. Every day I type page upon page, slip them into envelopes, and put them in the post box. The address remains the same, P____ avenue number 477, to one Mr. Graves. I cannot bring myself to leave this room, to stop my typing, to dash this vile contraption to pieces for the wailing. I only know that the typewriter is their tool, and that when they are finished with me I should join my father. Over and over again I type my name on the pages, over and over again. When I finally am told to type those two words, friend, you'll see no more of me.
It is with great lament that I must relate my tale to you, for once you have heard it, you too shall be set upon by this shadow, this shade that wracks my dreams and haunts my waking hours. May God have mercy on your soul, poor traveler. Yet I must tell you this story, so listen well.
In London, in an age past, there was a man of noble blood, whose family was ghastly rich, and whose decadence knew no bounds. What this man pleased, so he received, through whatever means found necessary to acquiesce to his commands. Should he have desired the neighbor's daughter, he would have her, or her house would burn to ashes; should he covet a visitor's watch, the visitor would often not return to his home that night or ever. So great was his greed in life that he aspired to begin collecting things he could not buy with money, things no other man could possess but himself.
Thus it was that he began his studies in the black arts. He took holiday in the Orient, and while he was away, he learned the magicks and sciences of the Eastern magicians, for his reputation had not spread so far as to be found known in China. His family tended to his businesses until his return a decade later. His studies in the Orient had imparted upon him all manner of mesmerisms that he could employ to befog the minds of whomever he pleased, but this was not enough for him; while he could break the minds of his victims, ultimately he did not receive anything from the endeavour.
So it was, then, when he acquired his dread tome from a collector's cache, that he delighted in the finding of the ritual by which the very spirit of the victim be decanted into a glass bottle and sealed up, leaving the victim naught but a shell, akin to what the Voo-Doo cults call a “zombi.” In this manner was the man truly satisfied, for now he could truly collect that which no other man could possess. At once he began his study of this abhorrent ritual, and not long after, this man began his collection of spirits and gathering of soulless puppet-servants.
In his parlour he has some hundreds of these spirits all bottled-up and displayed majestically for the ignorant visitor to gaze upon and at which to wonder. It is by this magick that his obsession is bounded, for now he hungers for nothing but these pretty bottles, more and more of them for his collection ever-growing. He was known for his extravagant parties, where after all was said and done one guest was never accounted for, and one more bottle would appear on his shelf. The guest would then appear as he was before, but with a hollowed demeanor and a glaze on his eyes. He speaks only of morbid tales of the man from ages past who collects the spirits of poor victims, and of the nightmares that wrack his wits to their ends. It is not surprising, either, to find them dried up and dead no longer than a fortnight after, looking as though they had been dead for years.
Alas, it is with such dread and remorse that I must reveal this to you, poor traveler, because tonight you are his chosen guest. God save your soul, for he will have your spirit in a bottle by night's end.
May 14 1873
The new patient seems to be taking well to her surroundings. She still bites at the leather hand-cuffs and wails about her lost cat, but often new patients will bemoan the loss of something familiar for a period upon entering this prison. As for myself, I have finally repaired my violin, the only material possession they allowed me upon admittance. I have not played in years, and my fingers are stiff, but I shall make an effort to play again. Whether it is to soothe myself or the other patients is something even I do not know.
May 17 1873
Her name is Claire, the new one. I spoke to her through the window in my door to-day. She said she comes from Louisiana, and that she had run all the way to Delaware to try and escape what she called “the edges.” I do not know what “the edges” are, as the poor girl became so distraught at the mention of them that she did not continue with her story, but began weeping and whispering to herself. I could not hear what she was saying.
May 24 1873
She says she sees them now, here and there, when she is being led about by the nurses. Her case is a fascinating one, indeed. When she is not sobbing quietly to herself (for she has quit her habit of loudly mourning her apparently lost cat), she combs her long, silky brown hair. Would that I had hair like hers; it has been months since I tore my own out. My violin is not in tune, and alas! they will not grant me a tuning-fork, so I must make do with what my ears can tell me.
May 25 1873
Whispers among the nurses seem to tell of one of the orderlies disappearing for hours, only to reappear with his body wrought with wounds that did not cease their bleeding. Claire insists that “the edges” have begun claiming victims, and begs profusely to be put somewhere safe, where they cannot get to her. The nurses refuse her requests, of course. The nurses all but ignore us, such a shame. I asked to be spared some milk to-day, as I thought it necessary to my recovery from such a state as this one, but I was denied.
May 28 1873
Claire awoke with bruises and cuts covering her pale frame this morning, though I witnessed not a single person enter her chamber the night before. Peculiar as it sounds, the nurses believe that she had done it to herself, and though I cannot push my own mind to believe that poor Claire would do such a thing, it seems the only recourse to assume she somehow escaped her hand-cuffs and injured herself. Poor girl. My fingers are becoming less and less stiff.
June 3 1873
I have not seen a nurse in two days. Claire and I both are beginning to feel the effects of hunger and thirst set in. I have saved some bread from time to time, but I cannot get it to Claire's chamber. We are too far apart, and all I can do is play my strings to try to keep her calm. I am hungry.
June 4 1873
In the night I swear I heard something walking in the hall outside my chamber, but it was too dark to see anything. Claire must have heard it too, for she began screaming and kicking, reciting pieces from the Testament in a frenzied voice, and crying. Perhaps whoever it was had looked in on her, because this morning she would not speak, save for those familiar words of hers, “the edges...” I played for her until my fingers hurt.
Since I wrote my entry in the morning, much has come to pass. I spied a man in a Victorian-style cape glide past the window in my door only an hour or so ago. I did not see his face, but his shoulders were broad, and so I think he was a man. He made no sound as he moved, save for the same foot-step sound I heard last night. Claire whimpered and cried to herself, but tried to keep quiet, I presume. I am hungry; I have had nothing to eat in three days, and at times I feel light-headed and lose consciousness for minutes at a time. It is disconcerting. I wonder if Claire and I will be all right.
June 5 1873
This morning my chamber door was open. I had neither seen nor heard a thing in my restless, thirsty sleep last night, but somehow it was open before me. I was weak from hunger and thirst, but managed to open Claire's door as well, and we made for the kitchen. I had seen it once, while I was being led through the halls to what the nurses so generously termed “treatment,” but what I will not recount here, as it still disturbs me. When we arrived, we hadn't seen a soul, and there was not a one in the kitchen, either. Most of the fresh food was spoiled, but there were preserved foods in jars, upon which we fed ourselves. Claire's eyes were wide, and bloodshot, as if she had not slept for fear of something the whole night. Now we two sit together in the pantry, with the door pulled tightly shut, because just minutes ago Claire grabbed my arm and dragged me here to hide from the edges. I asked her if that man I had seen with the cloak was one of them, and she replied, with trembling and terror-stricken eyes, “yes.”
June 6 1873
While we slept, one of them took Claire. I awoke to find the door open and Claire missing. Perhaps it was not them, and perhaps she wandered off by herself. I played for some time, hoping she would return, but I neither heard nor saw anything. I am becoming lonely. I played some more, for myself this time.
June 9 1873
The doors to the outside are locked, and the windows seem to have been boarded up cleanly. I have walked the halls numerous times in the last days, and nary had I thought I heard something, when turned the corner to be faced with an empty hallway again. There is plenty of preserved food, and water, but I wonder about the nurses, and about the other patients, and about Claire, and about myself. I worry at times that perhaps this is a dream, that I am indeed as infirm as the doctors had declared. My fingers are cut from the strings, and my poor violin is smeared with blood. I had ought to clean it off.
June 20 1873
At least I believe it is the 20th. I cannot tell any more. I awoke with a start last night to see Claire rushing down a hallway and around a corner, but upon pursuit I found I could not discover her again. I had hoped vainly that she was indeed returned, but alas. I am beginning to run out of places to look, and the halls are becoming stale and brown. I have not hungered in a day, either. I dare not look into the glass, for my form was pale and gaunt the last time I did so. I do not wish to see myself as such. I will continue to play, in hopes that Claire or someone will hear, even though my fingers bleed when I touch the strings.
June 30 1873
Though I have plenty of food, I do not eat. Plenty of water, and I do not drink. I am without the urge to do so any more, it seems, since it finally happened. I say “finally,” though I do not know who was waiting for it. It just came about that I no longer felt pain, no longer felt cold, nor hunger, nor thirst. All I feel is loneliness. Will someone come and free me from here?
September 13 1873
I do not remember much of what has passed since my ink ran dry some months ago. It was only recently that I found another inkwell in a reception desk I had not thoroughly searched before. Yet still this misery of solitude drags onward. I have not seen a soul in so long.
Newspaper article from June 10 1873
Reports of foul play have surfaced concerning Portsmouth Asylum's baffling case of what was originally called mass murder. It seems that all the victims, both asylum workers and patients, were killed using a knife-like implement, though no weapon was found, nor were there any suspects in this rampage murder-spree. Of note were two patients who, having somehow escaped the killer in the first onslaught, perished some days later completely drained of blood. One was found in the pantry clutching a violin, and one in the basement treatment area. What puzzles detective so much was that the whole asylum was locked from the inside, and not a single route of escape was found. Rumours have begun to circulate about ghosts, but investigators are still pressing for some sort of logical conclusion.
That in mind, some investigators claim to have heard sobbing coming from the basement, and violin music from the pantry, long after all the bodies had been cleared away, and no logical source of the sound can be explained.
In older times, when men would greet each other, they would tip their hats down a bit, the brim covering their eyes for a moment, as a sign of respect. Nowadays, this custom has fallen out of practice, and people just wave or say a few words. Would that they return to this simple practice!
None now remember why this custom started. I will tell you, traveler. It began back in London, when the fog covered the streets at night so thick that you could not see whom you met on your wanderings. I know, I was there, traveler. There in London, whispers in the back alleys spoke of the “street wraiths,” forms without arms who walked at night through the tangle of lines that made up London's downtown. If you met eyes with them, they would smile, it's said, and if you see their smile, by the sunrise you were mad. I've met many a drifter who screamed in his shuddering about the teeth, the teeth.
It became a sort of recognition idea to, upon seeing someone on the streets at night, tip your hat with your hand. If the figure up ahead did not tip their hat back, then it was assumed they were a street wraith, and you had best avert your eyes and make your way to where you are going on a different street.
Slowly, the fogs began to lift from London's streets, and people started to believe less and less that those crying madmen were victims of a ghost or spirit or whatever-it-was, and more that they were simply mad from poverty and hunger. Still, on a cold night when the fog rolled in, a few more would turn up on their doorsteps gibbering like the plague had hit them, about the teeth. Some of them even clutched pieces of their own hair, torn from their heads in their madness, and their hats always missing. “How peculiar,” some would say, “that their hats would be the only things missing. Would that I knew where they all were; I could make a penny off all those hats!”
No matter what medicine did, however, none could determine why those who lost their minds never recovered, and always amounted to being locked up and left to rot in their white cells, where often before killing themselves, they would paint the face of some monster with giant, jagged, sharp teeth on the floor in their own blood.
Alas, it is sad indeed that the simple manner by which one might distinguish a simple traveler from demise in a tight jacket has been lost. Oh, myself? No, traveler. I will not tip my hat to you. You see, sir, I haven't any arms.
Click. Katie Baylis' camera snapped, and she had captured the image of a woman in the courtyard of a church, sweeping the walkway with an old straw broom and humming what had to be an old hymn.
The woman looked up from her sweeping. She was pretty; she had a very dark black skin tone, and she looked to be around her 30s or so. She smiled a warm, wide grin that almost invited Katie to come in the gates and pray. Or something.
“You're so pretty...” said Katie, and she stepped a little closer, but then she looked at the gate. There was a heavy chain and padlock holding the gate shut, looking very unwelcoming to prospective worshipers. The woman looked back down and continued sweeping.
“Can't have you comin' in here and foulin' things up, now can we, white?” she said with a heavy swing to her voice. “All you folk ever do is mess things up. I know,” she said. She looked back up at Katie, and then walked into the church doors.
Katie stared for a second. What just happened? She was not entirely sure until she heard the bell at the top of the church ring, and saw the woman from a second ago up next to the bell. She waited for the bell to quiet, and then began to yell from the top of the belfry.
“Y'all have been treatin' me like dirt for too long!” she began. Some passers by stopped and looked up at her, talking behind their hands and pointing. “Y'all treat me different because of who I am! I ain't gonna take no more of this!”
Katie suddenly realized it-- This woman must be trying to kill herself! Was she going to jump from there? So high up, she'd definitely be killed if she jumped. She cupped her hands around her mouth.
“Hey, get down from there, you'll fall!” she yelled up. The woman laughed.
“That's just what I'm gonna do, white! Just you watch, I'll get down all right.”
“Look, I don't know what's wrong right now, but if you come down here we can talk about it.”
“What, and have you ridicule me for being black some more, white? You just keep your mouth shut and watch!” said the woman, and laughed again.
“You're a Catholic, aren't you? If you kill yourself, you'll go to hell, won't you?” yelled Katie. By this time a crowd had begun to gather around the church and her, and a good deal of people looked genuinely worried. “Isn't that what you believe?”
As she shouted up to the woman, three words kept flashing through her head. Take a picture. Take a picture. She still held her camera in her left hand, it would be easy, and it would be a beautiful picture, to be sure. A woman in black and white standing on top of a church in the noontime sun. The clouds in the sky seemed to beckon her on. Take a picture.
She shook her head, as the woman spoke again. “If I'm going to hell, I'll see all of you whites there, lady!”
Katie raised the camera up to her eyes. As she looked through the viewfinder, she saw the woman staring back at her, saw her step off the roof, saw her begin to fall.
She fell for what seemed like hours, the crowd gasping and crying out in alarm. The woman's face was bright and clear, not at all the face of a mad woman. She fell from the top of the belfry to the concrete she had been sweeping earlier, a sickening crack echoing through Katie's mind as the woman's head smashed against the ground. She lay still for a moment, and then a dark red pool began to form around her. Police were called, people started running away, screams filled the air.
“My deal is simple, sir. All I want you to do is find out the name of this person,” he had said, and slid a briefcase with a photograph on top of it across the table. “Half now, half when you tell me the name, agreed?” he had said. I popped open the briefcase and marveled at the sheer amount of bills that were packed in it. How was I to know, at that time, that those who gather information had the most dangerous jobs ever?
My name is Luke Mines, but everyone calls me Trespasser. I'm an information specialist, in technicality, but really my job comes down to breaking and entering, and then stealing. I'm fine with it most of the time. It's never really bothered me that my source of income was completely illegal in all respects. Not, at least, until now.
So here I sit, three armed thugs sitting around me, in a rather unkempt apartment. The carpet, or what was left of it at least, probably used to be white or grey, but now it is a distinct brown and green smear pattern, probably from cigarette ashes mixed with vomit and alcohol. There's a couple of chairs in here, but they're too broken to use comfortably, at least in my opinion. Not like I could get up and walk over to them in the first place, they've got me trussed up like a Christmas goose.
One of these guys is smoking a cigarette I watched him roll himself. He's got a scar on his left hand, and he's missing his little finger on that side too. He fidgets a lot, like he's got bugs or something. He's the one that saw through my disguise earlier. “Take off that stupid wig,” he'd said, and had swung his hand at my head, knocking off the exquisitely prepared wig I was wearing and blowing my cover completely. I am still not sure how he noticed it was fake.
The second guy is bald, real bald. If you gave me some wax I could probably make his head shine real nice. He's left-handed, but he's carrying his gun in his right. I only noticed because he has more developed hand muscles on his left side. He isn't the strongest fellow I've ever seen, but he certainly has some meat behind him.
The last one, man, he's a piece of work. He's got this big, puckered scar on his right bicep, like he was stabbed there or something, and another real nice, white scar across his left eye going down his cheek. Looks like he was on the receiving end of some punishment a while ago. He has the biggest gun, a rifle. The other two have what appear to be semi-automatic handguns, making them only slightly less of a threat to my health.
The door was about twenty, maybe twenty-five feet ahead of where they had me sitting, which was in the corner across from it. I made a note of it. “So your boss is a pretty important fellow, huh?” I say, acting as if there were nothing wrong with me being tied up and surrounded. “Pretty important that nobody finds out who he is, huh?”
Lefty turns around and sneers at me, his teeth that pleasant shade that tells of either too much smoking and not enough hygiene, or the excessive consumption of daisies. “Shut yer trap, kid, 'r I'll put some lead through yer leg,” he says with the accent that graced so many gangster-fellows. I nearly chuckle. That's not too bad an idea you have there, I think.
I had already got the ropes untied behind me. You'd think someone smart would tie the ropes in the front so that if the person they were tying up tried to get out of the ropes, you'd be able to see it. These guys were not smart. I lean forward a little bit. “Pretty important that someone like me doesn't get out of their ropes and get away, too, huh?”
He stands up and points his gun at me. “Ye'r too cocky, kid,” he says, and starts to pull the trigger. At that instant I roll a little to the side and sweep my leg into his shins, knocking him off balance. In a second I have my hands in front of me, and I've got his arm in one of those locks you see the police do to people with guns. Now I've got the gun in one hand and the guy in the other, and I don't intend to give the other guys chances to react.
Bang, bang, bang, I squeeze the trigger three times, hitting Scar in the right shoulder, Fidgets in the left thigh, and poor Lefty here in the center of the back of his right knee. They all go down pretty fast, and nearly as fast I collect their firearms. They yell lots of things I don't pay a lot of attention to, lots of curses and such. For good measures, to make sure that nobody goes anywhere, I turn and fire again into Scar's right calf. “Sorry, man,” I say. “Next time I'll only shoot you once.”
The next room over is supposed to be their boss's room, but he probably ran when he heard the shots. Maybe he didn't, maybe he thought they were shooting me. Tough luck, man, I'm still intact here, and you've got records somewhere, I know you do. “Say, you guys know where your boss keeps his checkbook? Or his insurance papers? I could even go for a piece of junkmail if you guys have any,” I say, turning back around and heading for the door. “All I want is his name, you know.”
One of the guys spits at me through his teeth, and tries to stand up. He gets about halfway up, but then the bullet hole in his leg puts him back on the floor. I kind of feel bad for having to shoot them, but hey, they were waving their guns around first, you know? So I leave. I take a few steps toward the next apartment over.
The door is unlocked, probably not expecting their hostage (is that what I was? I wonder...) to come out with three guns and a really, really simple question that nobody seemed to want to answer. So I push the door open and dodge back to the side, just in case something comes flying out at me. Nothing does. I stick my head around the corner, and there's nobody there. Go figure, why would they make it easy on me?
I take a few steps into the room, which is far better furnished than the one next to it. The table in the center of the blue carpet area near what I suppose is a kitchen but really looks like a chemistry lab has an empty glass and a bottle of whiskey resting on it. I could go for a drink, but this is not the place to do it, so I walk in a few more steps.
The door shuts behind me, and I hear the click of a hammer being pulled back on what sounds a lot like... “Colt revolver. Probably a later model,” I say, and put my hands up in front of me when I feel the muzzle of it push against my neck. There's a chuckle behind me, sounds like the boss is a relatively young fellow.
“Please, have a seat,” he says, so I sit down at the table. He sits down across from me, and pours himself a glass of the whiskey. “Care for some? I can get another cup,” he says.
“I'm fine, thanks,” I reply, and start to put my hands on my lap.
“Oh, if you'll do me the courtesy of putting your firearms on the table where I can see them,” he says. I slide the three guns across the table to him, and he smiles. “That's a good boy. You listen well,” he says, and smiles. His teeth are clean.
He's wearing one of those suits that if you saw it, you'd know the guy wearing it was a mobster or something. You know the kind. He's got a black and blue tie on under his coat, a white handkerchief sticking out of his breast pocket, and damn if I wasn't right about his gun. I bet he thinks that he'll only need three rounds to kill me. Hell, I bet he only thinks he'll need one. Well, he could be right. I have to admit, I'm in sort of a bind here.
He's got all the guns, I've got nothing but the chair I'm sitting on, and he's pretty confident about his situation. I would be too, if I were in his shoes. I've got to do something, pretty quick.
The table is covered with a tablecloth, red and white tessalations all over it, and it sort of makes me dizzy when I look at it. There's one glass, in his hand, and the bottle is on the table. Behind him there's a big mirror on the wall, the sort that you can see your whole body in if you stand next to it. The kitchen is full of pots and beakers and the like.
“What's for dinner, boss?” I say, glancing over at the cluttered countertop. There's a bunch of little plastic bags filled with white powder in a neat pile near the edge of it. It's cocaine, it looks like. I don't do the stuff myself, but in this case I could probably use some. The edge of the counter is only about eight feet away, and Boss does not look like he expects me to do anything out-of-hand.
“It's delicious. Would you like a taste?” he says, and laughs. There is the distraction I need. Quick as I can, I jump up from the chair and push the table forward with all I got. It slams into Boss's gut, and he coughs and doubles over just as I grab a fistful of the bags, and hurl them in his direction before he has time to pull the trigger. A bunch of them break open and then there's a cloud of white dust all over. Boss has his face all covered, so he drops his gun to try to rub the stuff out of his eyes like a little girl.
A good, swift punch in the head puts him into a less-than-caring state, and then I cough a bit myself. This stuff's potent. So I grab the handkerchief out of his pocket, and sure enough, there's his initials on it. A P, it says. I stuff it into my pocket and look around. There's a closed door across from the kitchen, and I figure there might be some information or something in there. So I pick up his nice little revolver and the rifle, and then I open the door. There's a bed with the sheets and blankets all tangled up in a bunch, a nightstand with a lamp on it, and hot damn, a stack of papers on top of the dresser next to he door.
I pick up these papers, and shuffle through them a bit. They seem to be figures for income and money spent and such, so I'm about to just put them back, when I hear something outside. There's a bunch of real heavy, real fast footsteps coming down the corridor leading to this room. It can't be the guys next door, they can't even stand up, let alone run. There's too many of them too. So I stuff the papers into my jacket and round the corner to the main room again. The door's open, and Boss is gone. Go figure, I should've hit him harder. I look back at the wall opposite the door. There's a sliding glass door and a balcony, that's right, this is the third story, I remember. `
I dash over to the glass door and wrench it open. The runners on it are probably broken. The drop is straight down into what looks like a parking lot, full of junk cars with their hoods and windows and tires missing. Great, if I fall into that, I'm liable to get hurt some. I look back over my shoulder, just long enough to catch a glimpse of the big, burly guy in the striped shirt point his automatic machine gun at me and pull the trigger.
There's a lot of loud sound up in that room now, and I'm halfway down to the car lot. A drop from the third story never hurt anyone, unless it... well, actually happened. I'm not looking forward to this landing. I've got a lot of forward momentum, so I could probably pull off a shoulder roll when I hit the ground. So I hit the ground, and it feels like my legs break, but I lurch forward into this awkward roll over an old, rusty tire iron someone left behind after they were done stealing the tires off of one of these cars and which I did not see before I dropped, and suddenly I'm behind one of the old pieces of junk, behind cover from the hail of bullets that came raining down thereafter.
So I check myself for injuries. Legs are real sore, but not broken. Shoulder's a little bloody from the weird roll on the gravel-like asphalt, but other than that, I'm in pretty good shape. I hear the bullets stop, and I figure they're coming down after me. If they were smart, they'd have left one guy or two to continue firing on me so I would not move until they were in position to blast holes in me, but I made that remark before.
So I get back to my feet. It hurts kinda, but I know it'll go away in a few seconds, so I start running. Running kinda clumsily, but running. I unsling the rifle and make sure it's cocked back, because go figure it's a bolt-action. I hear a few shots behind me, and I hear a bullet whiz by my head, so I duck behind one of those boxes that houses electrical stuff, and look around.
So I'm sitting next to the side of the apartment building, and there's this opening for what looks like a crawlspace to go under the building. I do another one of those awkward rolls into the ditch in front of it, and then shimmy my way into the hole after firing a shot off in the direction I figure those guys would be. I hear a bunch of them run past where I am hiding, and then it gets silent.
So I wait for a while. I hear Boss barking orders around to his henchmen, I hear a whole bunch of cars start up and squeal off, and then it's quiet again. I wait a little while longer before I get out and run like hell.
So I meet up with my client. I hand him the stack of papers, the handkerchief, and the revolver for prints. “Couldn't find his whole name, but here's a bunch of information that'll probably help you anyway,” I say, and nod. We're sitting in the same booth in the cafe we met in before, in the back, near the back exit.
The guy looks up at me and grins, and then snaps his fingers. The back door bursts open, and like five or six police officers rush in and point their weapons at me. Turns out my client was the chief of police, gone undercover. Killing two birds with one stone, he was trying to.
So, commissioner, you going to let me out? I promise I'll never do bad things again. Oh, and the guy's name, what was it? It'd be satisfying for me to know.
Alex P------, huh. No wonder he looked so familiar, I used to go to church with him when I was little. Wonder if he remembered me? Commissioner, I'll be out by the end of the night anyway, why don't you just let me go now? I did help you out, after all. Prints and everything. Come on.
...man this is a piece of crap.
It was the beginning of winter vacation. As the sun was setting, I was on my way home from school. I had stayed to watch Koboshi-chan's archery club activity, and then went to the library for a talk with my history professor, Miss Sendou, to make sure I had everything for the vacation, which I planned to spend studying.
The sun had just dipped down below the mountains to the west, so everything suddenly had an eerie darkness to it. I didn't really notice. I took the same route home that I always did, walking at the same pace, seeing the same sights, and thinking the same thoughts. Things were boring.
I had friends, to be certain, but they were all staying in Tokyo over the break too, so there was really nowhere to go. I sighed a little as I kicked an empty can someone has left on the curb a few times. This year's vacation was turning out to be the same as all the other ones.
When I arrived home, I was greeted by a busy “Welcome home!” from my mother, who was in the kitchen merrily throwing things together for dinner. I had invited Koboshi-chan over as well, as a sort of “Hooray, it's vacation” dinner, but she was nowhere to be seen.
“Koboshi-chan's family had an appointment today, Hiroto, so she could not come, you see. It'll just be us, if that's all right,” called my mother's voice. She was always so bright and cheery, regardless of the situation. I had hoped to eat with Koboshi-chan, because it was fun to be with her, but so things go. I shrugged in return.
The dinner we had was a normal dinner. Fish, soup, some vegetable dish, and rice. I left the table early and slumped my way to my room. The clock on my bedstand read 10:47 PM, December 21st. A fine vacation start this was. As I laid back on my bed, I pulled the pillow over my eyes.
Once, just once, I wished that something interesting would happen to me. Something that has never happened to anyone else before. Something, anything. With those thoughts in my head, I drifted off to sleep.
I was suddenly awoken by my mother, who was shaking me back and forth. “Come on, Hiroto! You'll be late for school if you don't put yourself in gear! Get up, your breakfast is cold!” said she, as she finally let my shoulders go.
I squinted against the sunlight streaming in through my open curtains. “Mom, it's vacation. Let me sleep,” I muttered as I glanced at my clock. 6:34 AM, January 6. “It's still really early...” Suddenly my eyes shot open and I stared at my clock again. The date was wrong. “Is this some practical joke or something, mom?” I asked, reaching over to change the date back to the proper date.
“What are you talking about, Hiroto? Vacation ended yesterday. Don't tell me you still have vacation fever. Hurry up, you'll be late!” she said, and turned to leave. “I pressed your uniform for you, so hurry up and get dressed.”
I was confused. Vacation had just started yesterday, and I had only been sleeping for a few hours. What in the world was happening? In a sort of daze, I dragged myself out of bed and pulled on my uniform. The stairs were cold and steep as I went down to the kitchen to get breakfast. My plate was on the table already, covered by a sheet of plastic wrap to keep it clean. As I removed the plastic and picked my chopsticks out of the cup that held them, I looked back at my mother, who was washing dishes in the sink.
“You sure you're not joking with me?” I asked.
“I am doing no such thing,” she replied. “You're late, though. You'd better hurry. I know it's still hard, but you've got to go. There's an assembly today, remember?” she replied. I hurried as best I could to eat and brush my teeth, and then I was on my bicycle, on my way to school with not a little doubt in my head.
On the way, however, I saw the elementary schoolers that always walked in huge clumps walking along the usual school route too. Didn't they also have vacation? Maybe theirs started later. Maybe there was some surprise party today at school that I was not supposed to know about or something. Maybe I actually slept through the two-week long vacation. Maybe my teachers will give me all A's this semester too. Heh.
I arrived at school, and it was bustling with the usual amount of students that were hurrying to get to class at the beginning of the school day. I locked my bike into the rack and started for the assembly building (mother had mentioned something about it), hoping there would be an explanation as to why I was so rudely interrupted in my vacation. On the way there, Koboshi-chan met me.
“...hey...” she said, her voice quavering a little. “You... doing all right...?” She put her arm around my own as she walked next to me.
“...what?” I said.
“You shouldn't pretend it didn't happen, you know. It creates suppressed memories, which will turn into post-traumatic stress disorder afterwards... Just don't get sick or anything, all right? You've been through enough these past couple of days...” she said. She squeezed my arm a little as she spoke. “I'll be here with you from now on, okay?”
It was queer, the way she was acting. Koboshi-chan was always a really energetic, bouncy girl, always smiling, always ready to play and have fun. This Koboshi-chan, though... she was sad, and the air around her wasn't its normal warm, glowy self. Something was going on.
The assembly hall was quiet, for having nearly three thousand students in it. Miss Sendou sat at the front, in all sorts of bandages. Her arm was in a sling, and she had part of her head wrapped up in gauze, as though she had been in an accident of some sort. I stared for a moment.
“What's up with Rika?” I asked. We all called her Rika, even though she got mad at us for using her given name. Koboshi-chan did not respond. The principal got up on the stage, and straightened his tie.
“It is a terrible thing, to begin back to class with such an accident. Today will be a day of observance, for the late Masumura Erika.” He spoke slowly, as was normal, but this time his voice held a sort of quaver that betrayed he was on the verge of tears. I watched as several students looked pityingly back at me.
One of them patted me on the shoulder. “Sorry about your girlfriend, man... never would have thought this would happen...” he said, his eyes full of pity and sadness.
Wait. Masumura Erika, the hottest girl in school, is dead? And what is this about me having a girlfriend?Who is it? my thoughts raced. Koboshi-chan sobbed. I looked down at her small face, and that expression which was normally bright and sunny was a maelstrom of tears and smeared makeup.
The assembly continued as Rika took the stage with the help of some crutches. She adjusted the microphone to the correct height, and then began to speak. “I... was in the car that struck Erika yesterday. The car I was riding was struck from behind by a truck, and spun into the intersection we were waiting at. Erika was, at that time, waiting for the light to turn so that she could cross. My car pinned her to the lightpost, and killed her instantly. You cannot imagine the guilt I feel. Erika had only just started to find friends, and had just found a boyfriend, and it is my fault that she is no longer living. I must apologize. Tatsumiya Hiroto, I am sorry that your girlfriend was passed away, by fault of my own.”
Those words echoed in my head. What is going on here? What is she taking about? I barely knew Erika, and that was only because I had watched her practice swimming once or twice on days when there was no archery club meeting. How could she have been my girlfriend? How could she have, having become my girlfriend, died? I did not understand anything. It was as though my mind had completely forgotten the two weeks that had passed between my yesterday and my today. I stood up, holding my head between my hands, and fled the assembly hall.
I ran to the clubhouse, and yanked open the door. There had to be a place where I could sit and collect my thoughts, where I could rationalize what was going on. I heard footsteps behind me, and as I turned, I saw a heavily-breathing Koboshi-chan leaning on the door.
“Is this... interesting... enough...?” she said between her tired breaths.
Suddenly I was back in my room, lying on my bed. My cellular phone was ringing, but I did not pick it up. Instead I just stared at the ceiling.
Was all of that real? Was it a dream? Was I crazy? Did I hallucinate that whole situation?
I picked up my cellular phone and flipped it open. “Hello?” I said hesitantly.
Koboshi-chan's voice came from the other side. “Hey Hiroto! Wanna go see a movie today?”
“...what... day is it today?”
“It's Saturday, you bird-brain! The first real day of vacation! Let's rock up Shinjuku or somewhere!” she said, and a giggle followed.
I looked at my clock, a headache definitely forming in my forehead.
11:26 AM December 22nd.
I was back in my normal time. It was the correct day. I still did not have a girlfriend. Everything seemed to be normal again, as far as I could tell. And I was content with that. None of my friends were dead.
For a second I was silent, but then I took a deep breath. “Yeah, sure. I could go for a movie,” I said. “As long as there's no car accidents in it.” Perhaps the life I was living was interesting enough for me, without any interference from wishes.
I resigned myself to two things. The first was to not make idle wishes again. The second was to meet Koboshi-chan outside and take my bike to the theatre.