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Kelly looked out of the window. Her skin was tender to the touch and she had tried to keep herself forward. The discomfort had deepened and John sat with her, holding her hand as the plane descended.
‘It’s bad isn’t it?’ she said.
John rubbed his eyes as he leaned forward in the seat and squeezed her fingers.
‘I don’t know.’
His voice was soft and low, sluggish with the pills but she never got the sense of him retreating. He had taken charge and responsibility and here he was, in control of himself. He put his other hand over hers.
‘I’ve got a facility at my house. I built it myself and we can treat you there.’
Kelly tried to smile but a tight quiver ran through her and her throat grew dry. Her vision blurred and she saw John reach for her in slow motion before her eyelids grew heavy and she went deep into herself.
She awoke in slow rolls of her consciousness. Each time, she awoke to a host of demonic sensations. Her skin crawled and her joints throbbed with a sick, suckling agony. John drove them through the night as she sat and struggled not to scream with the pain.
She passed out again and she came to, with his arm around her and she struggled away from where his touch burned through her clothes. Her face burned and she did not want to look, but she felt burning slashes of caustic sensation run down her cheeks. Her tears stung but John guided her forward, telling her they were at his house.
Doors opened before them and she took a ragged breath as she breathed in clean, refrigerated air before she heard John’s voice at her ear.
‘Just breathe, Kelly. I’ve got you.’
She tried to focus, but the pain was too complete to allow her to do anything but black out in the face of it.
Jasper did not like waiting. He knew he served as a retainer but he enjoyed the relative utility of it. As nice as the hotel was, he had seen a shift in his value to the boss. It made him uneasy enough to see the suite as a holding cell over a base of operations.
‘No, we’re waiting to hear from Nixon about the company. We’re to find them both.’
He lit a cigarette and looked out onto the peach and orange sky. He was exhausted but Olivia had not called in and something pricked the animal sense of self-preservation which had helped him survive through the years.
‘Look order a fucking pizza but keep your head down until I call you.’ he said.
He ended the call and switched his phone off. He got up, went for a walk, slipping a Karambit curved knife into the holster under the tail of his shirt. He wasn’t stupid enough to go to the places where he needed a gun, but he never went unarmed.
Jasper walked a few blocks from the Marmont. Sunset Boulevard was ugly enough to fascinate him, being an Englishman who had never liked the place and joined the army to get out.
He got into the cab and told the driver where to go.
The driver, a tubercular Italian man with a shaved head and a small shaving cut on the back of his neck looked at him in the mirror.
‘Jasper. We thought you’d bailed on us.’
Jasper swallowed and took out his cigarettes but the driver shook his head.
‘No, not in here. You look troubled my friend, what’s up?’ he said.
Jasper glanced around and sucked air through his teeth.
‘I’ve met the boss.’ he said.
The driver raised his eyebrows and pouted as he gave a small appreciative nod.
Jasper pulled his lips over his teeth and snorted with sudden amusement as he took out a cigarette.
‘We’re fucked.’ he said.
Kelly blinked as she stared up at the ceiling. John stood over her as he adjusted the IV to her right. The pain had gone and she could see again. She tried to speak but her throat was too tight.
‘Kelly, I’ve stabilised you but I have figured something out which affects us both.’
‘What is happening to you is neurological. Your brain is telling your body it is wrong. Something has infected a part of your brain. Mine, too.’
He picked up a cotton swab, daubed in water and ran it across her lips.
‘I don’t tell you this frighten you. I’ve survived it when I was thrown into a river and you will come through this.’
He stared into her eyes and the power of his gaze reached past the narcotic haze, without pain but also without feeling and it was a quiet touch to the centre of her.
‘I will save you.’ he said.
He would use barbiturates to arrest her cerebral function to minimize the trauma of the transformation.
‘By putting you into cortical electrical silence, your body will process it and I can monitor you until it’s over.’
She blinked twice and he used a swab to wipe away her tears.
‘I’ve established a line of nutrients. Amino acids, simple sugars and minerals as the process happens.’
He touched her cheek with his gloved fingers and blinked away tears.
‘I’ll see you on the other side of this, Kelly.’ he said.
She blinked twice then he adjusted the dosage and sat in the chair.
John had accepted being alone. He had conquered himself as much as his condition allowed. It did not stop him feeling a distaste at some parts of himself. Not flaws or sins but symptoms he had learned to control. He sat and wondered if he had passed it on to someone who had evoked a fierce and deep affection in him. He wanted to make her feel safe, to find the words to share with her something of himself.
The horrible irony was the fear he had.
Olivia saw through an opaque film before she heard Amaro chuckle.
‘Breathe. You are adjusting.’
Olivia breathed and felt a dichotomy of sensations as she took three breaths, her lungs filling with a swift, clockwork effectiveness.
‘You have new organs. In the corners of your eyes are new muscles which control a third eyelid. It magnifies and allows you to see in other spectrums. It is interesting how it was the first thing I remembered.’
She turned her head and saw him dressed in a white shirt. He looked tan and rested, the merest traces of the aquatic creature who had met with her. He smiled, showing even white teeth.
‘This is a transition period. The control will come to you but this is a time of rebirth and requires you to adjust.’
He rested his hand on her shoulder.
‘You are exquisite. I do not offer the gift of myself without consideration, Olivia. I reward those with use and I give you el serenidad de sangre.’
She twitched and the eyelids fluttered away into her sockets. The clean scent of his skin came to her with a surgical clarity. Around him sparked a seething corona of purple and black. A portrait of information twisted by age and density. He was a poem of terrible grandeur and ambition. He had taken to his transformation and rode it to the level of divinity.
‘Necesito un detective, Olivia para representar mis intereses sin mostrar mi mano demasiado pronto.’
(Agent) (actor) (representative) (investigator) (bond)
Her body hummed with strength and vitality. A poised relaxation, but she knew she was faster, stronger and the knowledge flows within her to use as a weapon. Her memories and knowledge came to her in bursts of a somatic language, architectural symbols which unfolded entire libraries of experience available with each breath.
‘Lo veo en ti ahora. El poder de esto, pero hay un costo para esta Olivia. Ofrezco pagar, pero debes aceptarlo.
(Offer – alteration and focus) (Power) (You have always felt apart. This is a natural progression of it)
She nodded and he rolled up his sleeves.
‘Sentirás una serie de dientes. Son efectivos para establecer el vacío cuando se alimenta. Lo he reducido a una vez al mes para mantenimiento, pero tendrá que alimentar con más frecuencia. Le proporcionaré los medios para hacerlo con discreción.’
(Such things demand concessions and terms) (Altered biology)(Hunger and the means to feed it) (You’d do worse for much less than this)
She sat up. It was the taste of real power and she wanted it. Her faculties would have faded and she feared a future sat rotting away alone turning yellow and resentful but now she push past herself into a state of sheer will.
Amaro turned and wheeled the young man into the room. His dark hair fell over his face in lank curtains and she saw the inked scars over his biceps. Golden filaments of hair on his tan stomach. He was somewhere between boy and man, a cocktail of nascent hormones and flavours which sparked a deep craving as she came forward.
The teeth slid forward and she felt Amaro’s hand on her head. She responded to the sensation without too much instruction. Her teeth slid forwards, hollow as a ring of muscles pumped blood through them into her system and converting them into fuel for her becoming. A minute and she was pulling back as he sagged in the wheelchair.
‘Alguien estaba muy hambriento’
Her eyes blazed with a horrible cold delight.
‘Where do I start, Mr Felipe?’ she said.
He pushed the chair away and pressed his hands together.
‘Find this man.’ he said.
Yvonne walked through the forest. She had been elected last year, having done eight years with the Military Police before moving to Portland with her sister and served with the department for another five. It had been quiet but, she had done good work and people liked her. Yesterday had been a robbery foiled by a giant fucking dog and now she was trudging through the forest, looking at another six bodies across two locations in the same stretch of forest.
A fucking plane, too. Oh she would take shit for missing that off someone, she knew. Yvonne knew the world was cruel and random but this was a little too much to take. She had to beg for resources as it was but this was above her pay grade but she cared about these places.
She walked up a bank of earth and looked at the remains of the plane.
A deputy came up to her.
‘They’ve processed the video. You said for me to tell you when it came in.’
Yvonne nodded as she glanced down at the fuselage. Four of the six men had been killed the same way, she had figured.
Bitten by something big. Massive tissue damage to the abdomen or throat. The soft parts or ligaments to kill someone quick.
She figured she had an hour before the Bureau took over. It would be enough time to see the video, at least give herself a reason to be grateful things were moving out of her hands.
There were things people avoided if they were smart, she thought. Yet the idea of it was like a terrible fairy tale, and the woods could hide anything, which was why she came here. Still, she wanted to know something to help her not feel privy to something awful and random in the face of it. She got into the patrol car and drove back to the station.
Later on, she had dinner with her sister who knew better than to ask. They finished a jigsaw together and watched another episode of Orange Is The New Black before she talked about the video.
How big the dog was. Not like a dog at all. A wolf with the weight of a black bear, quiet and quick as it killed and disappeared.
Smart too, she told her sister.
Harriet chuckled and shook her head.
‘Sounds like a werewolf.’ she said.
Yvonne picked up a handful of popcorn and sat back on the couch. She did not pick a piece up as she stared at the screen and struggled with the possibilities.
He walked over the ice.
A wave of fierce energy made him stop. The pressure in his skull grew to a shrill pitch and he gritted his teeth. His molars sparked with blue and white flashes of energy as he stood there, naked in the blizzard. With each hour, his skin had gained lustre without colour. It became a bleached buttery pelt draped over musculature which thickened and scarred until he had gained thirty pounds of muscle mass and an awful brutal beauty. Black fingernails and teeth until he was a study in negative.
He straightened up and flexed before he started to run.