romance, short fiction, women

The Transformation Episode 28 – Assembled Into Something Into Something.

Previous episodes are here.

I am just a copy of a copy of a copy
Everything I say has come before
Assembled into something into something into something
I don’t know for certain anymore
I am just a shadow of a shadow of a shadow
Always trying to catch up with myself
I am just an echo of an echo of an echo
Listening to someone’s cry for help

Nine Inch Nails, Copy of A.

 

1.

 

‘I thought I’d get to punch more stuff?’

 

Kelly glanced at John as he attached the adhesive pad to her temple.

 

‘So does everyone who gets into medicine.’

 

John frowned as he worked. She reached out and touched his forearm.

 

‘I feel incredible. For the first time.’ she said.

 

He ran his tongue over his lips as he lowered his eyelids and put his hand over hers.

 

‘It feels that way when I turn into a wolf.  The pain is part of it but when I was there, I lost control of myself.’

 

She leaned towards him and kissed him on the mouth. She brushed her lips against his and closed her eyes.

 

‘So far, John, I know amazing things and terrible things. I have to control it, don’t I?’ she said.

 

He rested his forehead against hers and sighed.

 

‘We have to establish baselines. Whatever you spoke to, it’s more than a virus and I want to know what it’s done. Kelly, we have to know why. I need to study you.’ he said.

 

She kept her eyes closed before she laid back down on the bed and let him attach the other pad as he went over to the laptop on the table and switched on the bluetooth speaker.

 

‘John. Voice activation is on. I need you to tell me what you’re processing’ he said.

 

Kelly’s face grew taut with concern as her eyes dampened and he came back to her side.

 

‘Are you frightened of me?’ she said

 

He shook his head, his mouth in a tight line as he breathed in through his nostrils and took her hand in both of his.

 

‘No, I’m frightened for you.’

 

He typed into the keyboard before he asked Kelly to focus on her breathing.

 

She felt the pull in the back of her mind. It gained clarity as she reached out, following the shimmering waves of information into the laptop.

 

Kelly’s head throbbed with a sudden, nauseating roll of sensation, coating the inside of her skull as she drew in the surrounding information. She turned her head to one side, her eyelids sprung open as she stared past John. It was the rough word of God, a galvanic revelation as John watched the data spike on the screen before her lips pulled back over her teeth as she held onto his hand with a mechanical, impossible strength.

 

Her eyes were all black. Numbers scrolled  across them. John looked behind him and saw it was reflecting off the computer screen either. Her hand against his head. A halo of blue electricity formed around his head before it sank into him and his eyes rolled back in his head as he pushed away.

 

She bucked and thrashed as she tore the electrodes from her head. Kelly’s black eyes, scrolling numbers, looked on everything with a blank, insectile interest as John curled up in a ball. Small red blossoms opened on his skin as she watched him change.

 

Kelly lifted her hand to her eyes, watched as her pores dotted with black globules of shimmering chitin as it flowed over her like a chill kiss. It hardened into curved plates of blue-black chitin, iridescent where the light struck its surface and when it formed into a perfect, featureless mask over her face, it was cold and dark for a moment before her senses adjusted to her new form. Kelly stretched upwards, tested the new configurations of anatomy before she saw how the man lost beneath the thick, scarred shell which encased him.

 

She sensed the chemical riot of his transformation but at the edges of her new, brutal consciousness, more interesting prey presented itself to her and she ran from the chamber.

 

‘Kelly, stop it.’

 

Kelly looked up at the ceiling. Her arms were loose by her sides as she looked around, followed the trails of information twisting through the air before she strode over to the laptop and placed her palm against the screen. She screeched and lifted her chin as she sucked down the information, the knowledge and let it suffuse her brain.

 

‘That was interesting.’ the A.I. said.

 

Kelly screeched and it chuckled through the speaker.

 

‘I back up every 3 seconds. You’ve got three lines of random code, and whatever you’ve sucked down before. Sit down and wait for this to pass, you’ll regret it otherwise, I know.’

 

Kelly swiped the laptop off the table and it smashed into the wall, breaking in two as she walked out of the room.

 

The moonlight glinted off her armour and she squatted as her fingers elongated into razored tips and polyps of material ballooned on the line of her jaw into serrated mandibles which cut the air in rapid swipes as she ran into the night, eager to feed.

 

Inside the facility, the door sealed shut and the computer screen changed to a series of zeros and ones as the carapace on the floor cracked open, revealing the shimmer of wet fur and glistening white teeth as the beast tore itself free.

 

The air filtration system emitted a fine, white steam which drifted to the ground and the beast roared as it charged the doors.

 

Yvonne watched the agents leave. She gripped the mug of coffee with enough force to make the skin over her knuckles white as she kept the door closed to her office and struggled with what she had been told.

 

National security.

 

The war on terror had come to her part of the country, dressed in something bizarre and terrifying.

 

This animal was part of a program, she had been told, and the validation of her hunch to call local breeders was bitter as she tried to keep her face still.

 

This had been a test, deploying one of them in a limited, but dangerous environment to see how the animals acted. The investigation had captured a shipment of canine embryos en route to a post office box in Seattle. Yvonne had sat there, blinking in disbelief as the two agents gave her the story.

 

She had not believed a word of it but the lie was big enough to make her decide the truth wasn’t always worth pursuing. There were bodies all over the woods and handing it off no longer was a bad idea. She swallowed the lie, having been around too long to know what blowing a whistle cost you.

 

‘Killer dogs, huh?’ she said.

 

Yvonne got up and wandered to the door of her office and sighed.

 

Her phone rang and she answered it. She listened and got her coat on, cursing under her breath as she wondered what the weird thing was now.

 

For something she decided was not her problem, the universe was pushing to make it hers and the headache came on slow as she drove to the cabin.

 

3.

 

Adam charged through the woods. He moved like a missile, following the ugly, grating pulse in his head as he pumped his arms and pushed aside anything in his path.

 

Something had emerged and the call to act grew impossible to avoid. It was a relief to be stripped of dichotomy, focused on his purpose and running to meet it with open arms.

 

All to kill it.

 

His consciousness expanded, searching for the location until his senses were enervated by the contact. His sinuses were packed and he snorted ropes of black ichor down his face as he grinned. They sizzled where they fell to the ground but he kept on running.

 

 

Advertisements
Standard
love, purpose, romance, short fiction, women

Episode 27 – (The Transformation)To Take Flight Without Leaving The Ground

hold_on____by_p0rg

https://p0rg.deviantart.com/art/Hold-On-57499889

Previous episodes are here.

1.

Olivia looked at her hand, fingers splayed, fascinated by what was happening to her. The webbing between her fingers had swollen into translucence, with minute black veins visible beneath the surface. A sharp burst of pain flared in her fingertips as pearlescent needles slid forward, set in beads of black fluid which dripped onto the table. She sighed with pleasure as she lifted her hand for inspection.

‘Excellent, Olivia.’ Amaro said.

‘Now do it again.’

Olivia repeated the process until the tips of her fingers bled. She felt a deep pulsing travel up her forearm as the wounds closed.

‘Will it always hurt?’ she said.

Amaro give a thin smile and nodded.

 

‘As with all life, Olivia. However, some pain serves a purpose.’ he said.

 

Olivia ran her tongue along her gums, feeling the small nubs of raised flesh, through which slid the secondary set of teeth, fine black hollow needles which produced a neurotoxin and a vacuum seal to draw out blood. She lived with bursts of fascination about her new anatomy before a fleeting sense of how alien these things were washed over her like crude oil atop an ocean.

 

‘My experiences beg to differ.’ she said.

 

Amaro’s lips curved into a smile. Olivia noticed the subtle changes in his physiognomy, how his cheekbones would protrude and recess then the plates of his skull would swell before he caught himself and resumed his normal features.

 

‘Of the two of us, I have more to say on the matter.’ he said.

 

Olivia looked into his eyes and held his unflinching gaze.

 

‘How Old Are You?’ she said.

 

He brought his hand and covered his mouth as he shook his head and chuckled

 

‘I will be 340 years old in May, Olivia.’

 

‘Why are you laughing?’ she said.

 

He came around the table and stood close to her. She caught the salted piscine musk of him, wondered how far from humanity he was.

 

Perhaps it was the power, both in his form and wealth which set him apart. She had met with deputy directors, elected officials and although their station afforded them respect, Olivia knew without that station, they were small, crumpled and weak. She looked at him and fought the chill stirring of her interest which ran through her veins.

 

‘The ages have been dichotomous Olivia. I have been a monster and a god to some, but all I know is my purpose.’

 

She caught the Spanish accent, the diphthongs which escaped his control which made her smile to herself.

 

‘Which is what Amaro?’ she said.

 

He rested his hand atop hers for a moment.

 

‘In time, Olivia, in time. Now, walk with me.’

 

Amaro’s long, supple fingers curled around hers and he lifted her hand as she got up. Her breath caught in her throat as she followed him from the room. They left the house through the rear, wandered through the garden and out onto the beach. Olivia raised her nose and struggled against a pleasurable shifting through her body. The smell of the water prompted further changes and when she caught Amaro staring at her, she lifted the black t-shirt over her head and tossed it to the sand. He unbuttoned his shirt without taking his eyes from her, wandering over her high, firm breasts and soft stomach. Olivia had held herself apart from men but her transformation still held surprises. Her nipples hardened when the warm breeze caressed her. Amaro’s physique was a study in definition, sculptured muscles underneath translucent emerald skin as he let the shirt fall and he unbuttoned his trousers. The lack of modesty was reflected as Olivia stepped out of the cotton jogging pants and removed her white cotton panties. They established communications through the sets of laryngeal tissue set in vibrating pads of mucous membranes beneath the gills in their trapezius muscles.

 

(initiation) (consummation)?  He said

 

(trust) (manipulation) she said.

 

Amaro stepped towards her and took her hands in both of his.

 

He led her to the water and she watched his face elongate into something cetacean as his mouth swelled with the additional rows of teeth in his mouth. His eyes blackened but there was an open lust there as she stepped into his arms. The rush of the sea water around her bare, webbed feet was a caress and when Amaro stroked her cheek, she opened her mouth, letting her additional teeth slip forwards as they nuzzled one another, moving into the ocean where she shuddered with an exultant bliss. She surrendered to the liquid, alien wonder of mutation as Amaro lengthened and drew her into the water, reaching for her with cold, elongated fingers which knew the places to draw her pleasure.

 

They sang to one another under the surface. When the surrounding fish convulsed and turn on one another, Olivia looked and saw the coruscating eddies of photo-electricity, lines of force which penetrated the surrounding space. Amaro pulled her close and she slipped her legs around him as he drove into her with an urgent thrust which was agony and ecstasy in the same instance.

 

If it was not love, then it was the monstrous equivalent and for Olivia, it was enough.

 

2.

 

Kelly watched John as he loaded the dishwasher. She had showered and changed into one of his t shirts and a pair of pyjama bottoms festooned with superman logos, which made her chuckle when she saw them folded on the bed. When she came through, he smiled at her.

 

‘They look better on you than they did on me.’ he said.

 

She smiled and walked towards him as he stood up. Kelly enjoyed the difference in height between them. He read her thoughts and reached out, took her in his arms and kissed the top of her head.

 

‘Thank you.’ she said.

 

He took in a deep breath and she felt the raw force of him as she pressed her cheek to his collarbone.

 

‘It’s strange, Kelly.’ he said.

 

She looked up and watched his face. There were dark circles under his eyes but he smiled and she touched his furred cheek.

 

‘What is?’ she said

 

His smile faltered before he put his hand over hers.

 

‘Not being alone anymore.’ he said.

 

She kissed him and brought her other hand to his cheek before she drew back and stared into his eyes.

 

‘I know you didn’t give this John. Please don’t feel bad about it. I’m freaked out enough as it is.’ she said.

 

He lowered his mouth to hers, but held himself.

 

‘I wouldn’t hurt you for the world, Kelly.’ he said.

 

He gave off waves of warmth through his clothing and his hands smoothed down her back.

 

‘I know, but we have to figure this out, don’t we?’ she said.

 

He rubbed his nose against hers.

 

‘We will. I’m interested in the intuition you’re experiencing. Do you feel stronger,?’ she said.

 

She had not considered it but there were rushes of vitality coming through her in waves, sometimes subtle and involving but in his arms, it was a more primal state of grace which wrapped itself around them.

 

‘Yes, but it’s the thoughts. I reached into your computer without touching it and it was something I did without thinking.’ she said.

 

He pressed her to him and they held one another, drawing a deep comfort from the simple reassurance of touch which chased the thoughts away.

 

‘John?’

 

He looked into her eyes,

 

‘Take me to bed.’ she said.

 

He led her through to his bedroom. There was a full cabinet of books, some worn paperbacks skulking between crisp hardback spines and the floorboards were varnished and warm beneath her bare feet. She looked at the king sized bed with egyptian cotton sheets and sat on the bed.

 

‘I want to feel your weight on me, John. Everything in my head is floating away and I need you to hold me down until I figure it out. Do you get it?’

 

John did not have to speak. A flare of insight gave Kelly the biological information of his arousal. The hormones translated into tastes and textures. Testosterone and oxytocin were the soft crush of fruit flesh and wine, the endorphins were clouds of golden butterflies and she sensed the immunoglobulin as wavering globules of light appearing around them.

 

‘You look so beautiful.’ she said.

 

He gave a tender smile and looked away for a moment.

 

‘No one’s told me that before.’ he said.

 

Kelly watched the subtle shimmer of his vulnerability as a heat haze around him.

 

‘That you’re beautiful?’ she said.

 

He sighed and she ran her hands over her shoulders.

 

‘You are, John. We’ve changed but I still feel human, don’t you?’ she said.

 

He stood in front of her and she pulled him down onto the bed with her. They were still dressed and it lent an adolescent clumsiness which ended up in a burst of giggles before he slipped his hand inside her pyjama bottoms and ran his fingertips over the curve of her pussy. She tensed up with the delight of it before she softened and nodded to him, her voice lost to the urgency of her need.

 

‘I feel human around you.’ he said.

 

She kissed him hard and pushed his bottoms down his thighs before she caressed the taut globes of his backside. A moment’s concern wafted across her forebrain about protection but she looked into his eyes and wanted him inside her with nothing between her.

 

The virus had chosen them both. Perhaps it had a reason but as she closed her eyes and surrendered to the urge for his substance. It did not chase the thoughts away, but it gave them an alchemical symphonic quality which eased her fears. Kelly could see the means to kill and break, but it was a tool to see how desire manifested through her new senses.

 

John put his weight on her and moved inside her, slow but determined before she urged him not to hold back. He gained pace and urgency as she grew sodden with each angled thrust of his cock, moving deeper as she opened to him. When she came, with her fingers dug into his back everything went white before he joined her in the moment of pulsing abandon.

 

Later, as they laid there, Kelly turned on her side and stroked the hair on his chest as she moistened her lips with her tongue.

 

‘John, we need to test what I can do, don’t you think?’ she said.

 

He opened his eyes and brushed the hair away from her face as he nodded.

 

‘Tomorrow.’ he said.

 

She squeezed him close and rested her head on his chest.

 

A hive of thoughts hummed in her skull as she laid there, enjoying the strong thump of his heart and the dark musk of sex which hung in the air between them.

 

‘Would we have gotten together if we hadn’t met the way we did?’ she said.

 

He stroked her hair. She listened to his heartbeat for a change in pace but his heartbeat remained strong and steady.

 

‘You were flying over my house. I don’t like to ascribe meaning to horrible things which happen any more than I do to good things. I’m glad we have met, despite everything.’ he said.

 

She inhaled the smell of his skin before her eyes grew heavy and she drifted off into a slow, deep rest.

 

3.

 

Yvonne walked into the station house and stopped when the pair of agents stood up, their faces were expressionless but polite as they identified themselves as Agents Richards and Evans. She hid her nerves well as she led them into her office.

 

They sat down and she asked one deputy to bring her the files from the store robbery. Agent Evans pushed his spectacles up the bridge of his nose and thanked her.

 

‘In the interest of cooperation, we hope you’ll be amicable to our help.’

 

Yvonne chuckled and shook her head.

 

‘I’ve dealt with stray dogs before but this is some fucked up Lassie shit.’ she said.

 

She punctuated the balloons of horror which floated through her day with sharp observations, disguised as homespun humour. The pair of agents were a tough crowd, however.

 

Agent Richards leaned forwards, rested her forearms on her thighs.

 

‘Yes it is. We had the autopsy report sent over on the way here. Your coroner was a touch precious about it, but we figured we’re all on the same side, sheriff?’ she said.

 

Yvonne nodded with care.

 

Whatever the thing was, the coroner had assessed it managed about 1160 psi, enough to bite through the knee joint and amputate the leg in a single bite. Yvonne had looked on the internet and saw it was more powerful than a bengal tiger. She had emailed a few local dog breeders, asked them if they had taken orders or bred anything special but they responded as a chorus of indignation at the suggestion.

 

Evans smiled and looked at Yvonne with a quiet disdain.

 

‘The Lassie thing is cute, sheriff, but we’re looking at something which has been used to kill several people in your jurisdiction.’ he said.

 

Richards, who had the bright insincere smile of the girls who bullied Yvonne through school, shook her head.

 

‘You must forgive Evans. He takes getting used to.’ she said.

 

Yvonne hoped she wouldn’t have to but smiled and asked them if they wanted coffee. They agreed and she asked one deputy to go across the street and grab some.

 

‘As precious as Ray is, he’s recovered some foreign tissue and it’s getting analysed.’

 

Richards pouted and nodded her approval.

 

‘That’s good, the sooner we can find him, the better.’ she said.

 

Yvonne wondered if she misheard her but when she saw the blood creep up Richard’s throat, she realised she had.

 

‘What do you mean, him?’  

 

 

 

Standard
love, romance, short fiction, women

Episode 26 – The Transformation – Minor Players

Previous episodes are here

1.

Perez called on the way back. Jasper’s reunion had become an eviction party by the time the cab parked outside the warehouse. He watched Ezra and Josh wheel the roadie cases into the back of a waiting truck. Ezra scowled at him as they walked past, into the warehouse.

 

‘If he’d seen what I had, mate’ Jasper said.

 

Perez was still struggling with the news. He walked as though every step caused him pain, hands in his pockets as he led Jasper to the office at the back.

 

‘Ezra’s pissed about the job going south. We all are, but with what you’ve told me, it changes things.’ he said.

 

Jasper lit a cigarette and glanced at Perez.

 

‘I’m sorry, I had no fucking idea.’ Jasper said.

 

Perez blinked and tilted his head to one side.

 

‘If he’s not human, then he’s smart enough not to fuck with. Either that or you lost your fucking mind.’ he said.

 

Jasper shut his eyes and shook his head.

 

‘I wish I was crazy.’ he said.

 

Perez gestured a thumb to the office at the back and smiled at him.

 

‘Tell it to the boss.’ he said.

 

Jasper gritted his teeth, hissed out smoke between the gaps in his teeth. A fresh crop of sweat beaded along his hairline as he walked towards the office.

 

They heard a voice telling them to come in.

 

Jasper and Perez looked at one another.

 

‘I’ll back you all the way.’ he said.

 

Jasper looked at Perez, and there’s something detached in his eyes which makes Jasper take in a sharp intake of breath. He opened the door and stepped inside. The brittle crunch of plastic sheeting made him chuckle as he looked up.

 

Jasper had seen the man at the house. He had been one assistant, but he smiled with a bright amusement as he gestured behind Jasper.

 

‘Hey Jasper.’ Miller said.

 

Jasper looked as a man closed the door before he gestured to the chair with his gun.

 

‘Fucking do it, then.’ he said.

 

Miller shook his head.

 

‘Oh well, if you insist.’ he said.

 

The man lifted the pistol and shot Jasper in the head. Miller shook his head, disappointed at Jasper’s refusal to allow him a chance to gloat at how transparent his ambitions had been. They had found the crew, doubled their take and told them to wait for Jasper to check in. His ears rung from the shot, and he wiped away a fine mist of blood from his face.

 

Miller told the men to clean it up as he left the office. Perez was stood with his arms folded, looking out at nothing. When he saw Miller, he stood up and glared at Miller.

 

‘Tell Mary we’ll be in touch. Sorry about your friend.’ he said.

 

Miller willed a flicker of recrimination to appear in the other man’s face, but none came. Everyone had their price, and this crew had come in under budget. Perhaps they had heard about what happened to the last crew, but Miller had lost the taste for tradecraft and just wanted to get back to the house. Mr Felipe had asked him to take care of the matter, whilst he assisted Olivia with her transition and it was as depressing as having a team meet at the warehouse, tell them to clear out, pay the crew off in cash and wait. Perez was hanging around for an extra piece, seeing as he had brought Jasper back in.

 

Perez opened his mouth to speak but Miller shook his head.

 

‘No, I’ve said what I needed to. Fuck off, spic.’ he said.

 

Perez curled his upper lip and squared his shoulders but Miller held his ground with a varnished, smug grin on his face. He turned and walked away from Perez, who heard the sounds of plastic sheeting being gathered inside the office. Perez swallowed and it tasted like hot gravel pouring down the back of his throat as he turned and walked away.

 

The money was too good, he told himself. Whoever Jasper’s boss was, it was better to take the money and run.

 

Miller got into a car and made a call.

 

‘It’s done. Clean up is underway, sir.’ he said.

 

Mr Felipe thanked him and ended the call. Miller sat back in the seat and exhaled with satisfaction as he closed his eyes. His work kept him active, and although he had sacrificed a normal life for it, his needs were met. In time, he hoped, so would his ambitions. Jasper had come into the business under false pretences, and when he committed to those over his current employer, Mr Felipe had seen fit to deal with the matter.

 

He had been privilege to the secret of the man and took it as a measure of trust. Miller never acted against Mr Felipe, and it had been rewarding beyond his imagination over the years. He did not ask about being altered because he knew his use was in his appearance and manner. Olivia might have been capable of anything but she was bound to him forever. Miller saw the long term appeal of service but at an age and station where he would enjoy it.

 

Miller played out his subtle dreams of power behind his closed eyelids.

 

2.

 

The Editor looked at the cardboard sign and winced at the spelling of her surname.

 

MS SLATTER

 

She sighed as she walked towards the man, looming over her with a protruding forehead and acromegalic jaw.

 

‘You must be the Golem?’ she said.

 

He shook his head and lowered the sign.

 

‘No, he’s waiting for you.’

 

She sighed and checked her handheld device. He had sent her a message telling her he was thinking of her. A single x. A stolen ache slipped from her control but she grimaced and put the device back in her jacket pocket.

 

She followed the man out to a waiting car. He opened the door for her and she got inside. Her nose wrinkled at the bitter tang of burned flesh, like an oil on her tongue as she got in and closed the door.

 

He took up most of the back. Each breath was the soft roar of something large and mechanical as he sat with his knees close to his chest.

‘I dislike this place, Ms Slater. I am here because I am instructed to do so. Your skills as an editor are spoken of with warmth and respect but I am the Golem. You know of my reputation?’

 

She lowered her eyes and nodded.

 

‘It means you know mine, doesn’t it?’

 

He gave a slow nod. What light there was in the back of the car revealed pink skin which had healed into tight bands of scar tissue. She saw the wet glint of his teeth when he smiled.

 

‘We have two signatures to track. Evidence of a third, not including us.’ he said.

 

She had the lenses in her jacket pocket but the time on the plane had allowed her to read.

 

‘I will need information if we run a line edit on this.’ she said.

 

He grunted and the car started up.

 

‘I have a house we will use. There is internet there, and I have room for a sky tank, if you need it.’ he said.

 

His voice was the rasp lava made when it tongued its way down the mountainside and it unnerved her to be so close to it. He had worked with Special Lexicon, working with religious texts and had discovered an unknown word of power. His pronunciation of the second syllable burned most of his body but the change had been in his mind.  The surgeries and editing had transformed him and now he was a specialist, called in on serious matters.

 

She shook her head.

 

‘I’ve got what I need. We can talk along the way. What’s your story?’ she said.

 

He chuckled and rolled his shoulders.

 

‘In the beginning was The Word.’

 

She made notes in her head as she listened.

 

3.

 

Kelly watched John play with his dog on the lawn, squatting over it as he tugged the length of rope between its jaws. He looked up and she smiled at him, his eyes widened before he returned his attention to Duke.

Her thoughts gathered thunder, drawing information into her head where it waited for her interpretation. The pallet of scent signatures was intense, and she shuddered when she inhaled the perfume of coffee or the slow, narcotic pulse of nicotine but it was all overwhelming. He was teaching her meditation practices, a discovery he arrived at through need and taught to her as a way of managing the pressure.

 

She felt no urge to transform but there was an unsettling tension to her thoughts and reflexes which made everything a potential vector of concern. Kelly walked out onto the lawn and joined them both.

 

Later, when things turned bad, it was a happy memory for her, the decision to step out and join him in his space, but then she was driven by a desire for the silent comfort he offered without expectation of reward. It was enough for her then, to acknowledge it as he looked up and gazed into her eyes.

 

John’s phone rang and he answered it.

 

His face tightened and he asked them to contact the legal department. He ended the call and put the phone away.

 

‘They’ve asked about me and the cabin.’ he said.

 

Standard
romance, short fiction, women

The Transformation Episode 25 – Black Mountain

stealth_by_lwc71-d48x6m2

https://lwc71.deviantart.com/art/Stealth-256849850

Previous episodes are here.

1.

Kelly looked at the plate of eggs and bacon which John put in front of her as she sat down at the kitchen diner.

 

‘You cook as well?’ she said.

 

He shrugged his shoulders.

 

‘So long as I stick to breakfast meat and anything I’ve hunted or grown.’ he said

 

She smiled at him whilst trying to block out the information he gave off in waves. A haze of evidence swimming over to her like heat on a summer afternoon, filtered and translated into a knowledge of the man.

 

Kelly did not feel the pull to change shape. Her version of the infection had chosen elegance over brute force, but there was a power pulling within her. A fullness of presence and thought, which verged on the violent in its interaction with the world through her senses.

 

The knowledge had no moral filter. Kelly swatted away how John would struggle to process poison, clear in the micro biomes which collected in every exhalation. His elevated core temperature was evidence of a heightened basal metabolic rate. These were not her terms because whatever happened, it was not omniscience. She borrowed them from what she had read in the brief interaction with John’s A.I. and grafted them onto vast libraries of information. Kelly swallowed it down, too concerned with looking at John, feeling the slow roll of hunger in her stomach and reconciling it all with pulling off a scab the size and dimensions of a full body cast.

 

She picked up the cutlery and ate with relish. John brought his own plate over and they ate in a companionable silence. He poured coffee for them at regular intervals, wearing a quiet smile at the chance to act with her care in mind. Kelly swallowed the last mouthful of coffee and wiped her lips with a napkin.

 

‘I know what’s happened. What it’s done.’ she said.

 

John nodded and got out his tobacco, rolled them both cigarettes lit before she continued.

 

‘I know things. All the time, there’s information in my head, pulled in from everywhere and I know what to do with it.’ she said.

 

John frowned and glanced into her eyes.

 

‘My senses ramped up after the infection, but I don’t synthesize it beyond what I’m experiencing. But you know things? he said.

 

Kelly swallowed and loosened the barrier on her hidden knowledge, released a brief burst of revelation into her conscious mind.

 

‘If I wanted to kill you, poison would be the best way. I can see how your system processes things and I know what would do the most harm to it. It’s horrible I’ve figured it out, let alone I’m sharing the first thing I can do with this.’

 

He reached across and took her hand in his.

 

‘You don’t frighten me, Kelly. People change all the time, and sometimes it’s difficult to stay present with someone during those times, but I do my best.’

 

Kelly squeezed his rough, large fingers. She enjoyed, on a quiet, older level, how large his hands were. It was not weakness, but she enjoyed the primitive disparity between them. This knowledge was amusing enough to acknowledge with a smile to herself.

 

‘Thank you.’ she said.

 

He cleared his throat.

 

‘I’d like to run tests. If I’m supposed to study what this is, then we should get started.’

 

Kelly ran her tongue over her teeth.

 

‘John, there are people still after me. Hiding out here and running tests won’t change it.’ he said.

 

John exhaled and put down his cigarette to place his other hand over hers.

 

‘No, they won’t but if we have to run, it’s better we know what you’re capable of.’ he said.

 

Kelly wondered if she wanted to know.

 

She wondered if she had a choice in the knowledge. It was insistent in making itself plain to her, enough to cause a concern about whether it would overwhelm her. With John, it made him a monster, prone to spasms of violence and mutation, but he had controlled it.

 

Kelly imagined how her monster would manifest itself.
2.

Olivia saw the metal cylinder set into one corner of the suite.

 

‘I’ve had time to think about my condition. My wealth is such I can arrange my life around it without incident. If you’re to work in the field, that is a luxury you cannot afford.’ he said.

 

The cylinder hissed open and Olivia shielded her eyes against the sudden burst of light before it diffused into something she could stare at without discomfort.

 

It was dark blue and black, made from a material which reminded her of neoprene, the material used in diving suits. Small clear studs holding a clear liquid covered the suit. Olivia turned and looked at Amaro.

 

‘It’s a wetsuit.’ she said.

 

Amaro smirked and shook his head.

 

‘You wear this under ordinary clothes and it increases the time you can spend out of the water.’ he said.

 

She grimaced and recalled the tank Amaro had sat within when they first met in person.

 

”How long do I need to do that for?’

 

Amaro made a see-saw gesture with his right hand.

 

‘It depends on your level of activity. Once, after a grievous wound, I spent a year submerged before I healed up. You represent experience, but a little theory too.’ he said.

 

Olivia fought a pang of dismay at her changes being a matter of theory. It reminded her, too late, not to project romantic notions onto him. He had power, but he had paid for it, and she knew her price was being exacted upfront. Her intoxication had come up against the reality of her condition.

 

‘What happens if I don’t submerge?’ she said.

 

Amaro grinned and shook his head.

 

‘ You will devolve to a state of pure appetite, without concern for your own survival. There is tremendous power in such a state, but also a danger. ‘ he said.

 

He placed his hand on her shoulder.

 

‘Such an item grants you agency, Olivia. Without it, you would be a thing of interest. With it, you remain of profound use.’

 

Olivia caught the veiled warning, plucked from his phrasing and syntax with ease and stored it in her forebrain as a good lesson to learn under his cruel and permanent education. He was gentle and attentive, but it was a school for monsters here and she put her concerns to one side as she smiled and nodded.

 

‘It’s incredible, thank you.’

 

He reached behind the suit and retrieved a small black case, handed it to her.

 

‘You will need a sidearm. I had this prototype made available.’

 

She opened it with shaking fingers.

 

It was a ceramic revolver, heavy but tailored to sit in her palm. The sights were perfect, and she turned it in the light with a professional pleasure.

 

‘It takes large rounds and doesn’t drop shells. A distinction, someone with your background would appreciate.’ he said.

 

She opened the chamber. Eight rounds with large, white bullets, each of them had a small coloured dot. Four black dots, two red and two green. She closed the chamber.

 

‘Black dots. High explosive hollow points. The red dots contain phosphorus and the green uses a neurotoxin synthesized from the glands we possess.’ he said

 

She retrieved the padded shoulder holster and found the gun fitted in with a rasp of designed pleasure.

 

For the last gift, he handed her a spectacles case. She found a pair of wraparound shades and slipped them on. A brief tingling at her temples prompted a sudden flare of icons and symbols which shimmered before becoming translucent. She sniffed at a sudden tension in her nostrils and ear canals.

 

‘These will filter and conduct your acuities. I have a nose clip available, so you can analyse any scene without external equipment.’ he said.

 

She pushed her chest out, excited by the equipment and the abilities to use them. Amaro understood her. Power, and the means to wield it in pursuit of something larger had been a romantic, crippling notion before it crashed into the reality of her biology. Olivia was something useful but awful here, but it felt more real than the life which proceeded it.

 

‘Amaro, thank you. I will make you proud of me.’ she said.

 

Olivia meant it too. He was someone, something not to provoke or displease. Yet, despite the dangers, he had given her things which raised her to a point where she could stand and receive instruction on what it was to be a monster.

 

3.

 

Adam squatted in the cave. He had slipped from civilisation and into the wild as soon as possible. There were too many people to dispose of, and with each one, he had recovered memories of how good it felt to kill someone.

 

The ease of it had been pragmatic, but when he became aware of it, it prompted a measure of invention which disgusted and disturbed the police when they came across the first set of bodies. After he washed the blood from the bodies of the Turner family, he shivered beneath the open night sky and realised he had forgotten himself.

 

His journey had taken him in the right direction, but his actions would stain his soul of the right to act upon it with righteousness. Murder had started as a way of getting what he wanted, but it was too much pleasure to bear alongside his need to follow the magnetic, divine pull of whatever had awoken.

 

When he rested, he felt it moving and as powerful as his consciousness was, it could not define or locate the energy. It was a fire, offering knowledge and warmth, but far enough to deny him the experience of it. He would find it and snuff it out.

 

It was the reason for his creation. His actions had been a soul taking root in the soil of experience, bearing poisonous berries of knowledge and he had made himself drunk with his quest for meaning. It took centuries for him to listen to the knowledge within himself, and to accept it, but Adam had tasted the bitter cocktail of rejection and misuse, and it made his purpose a vessel for his weaknesses.

 

Adam became a renunciate of murder and resolved to focus his attention on finding the source.

 

He had climbed the mountain two days ago, hanging in the rain without blinking as he made his way to the top, where it was dark and quiet. He squatted down in a corner of the cave and closed his eyes.

 

Behind him, the sleeping bear rolled over in his sleep and did not mind the presence. It emitted gentle waves of calm, soothing and forgetful as it sent him back to sleep.

 

Adam closed his eyes and was about to recall sitting by Lake Geneva, listening to the old man speak when his head boomed with a swift and piercing sensation.

 

A second source had emerged. It made his sinuses burn, but he held himself in the squat and put his hands over his eyes, breathed through the knowledge as it cut symbols into his brain.

 

The bear slept on, unaware of how close it came to death.

 

Adam walked out of the cave and looked over the thick skins of mist, the trees and rocks which jutted through as a gauge of how far he had to go.

 

Two of them, one moving towards the other. He smiled at his fortune and decided to reward himself with recollections of Lake Geneva again.

 

The old man had been telling him a story.

 

Standard
beauty, love, romance, women

The Transformation Episode 24: Emerge

23d4cc335ce62ffac6716258be52909a-d5d5v5b.jpg

https://goddessathenaie.deviantart.com/art/last-dance-with-the-sun-324439535

Previous episodes are here.

 

Kelly looked at whatever wore her mother’s face and swallowed with distaste.

 

‘Convince me I’m not hallucinating this whilst I die.’ she said.

 

Her mother shook her head and laid her palms on the table.

 

‘I’m working from your memories of her but I am here to pass on a few things.’ she said.

 

Kelly curled her upper lip and wished it were John in here with her.

 

‘That can happen.’ he said.

 

She blinked as he sat there. Kelly put her hand to her mouth and glared at him over her spread fingers.

 

‘No, because he’s out there, trying to save me and I’m stuck in here, taunting myself.’ she said.

 

Her mother smiled and leaned forwards.

 

‘I tried to reach John through his father but the time he spent unconscious meant I could not establish a viable connection before the main work started.’

 

Kelly knew the answer.

 

Transformation.

 

‘So I have what he has. Did he give it?’ she said.

 

Her mother shook her head.

 

I chose you, my dear.’ she said.

 

Kelly’s eyes welled up with tears.

 

‘He told me he killed people when he was a wolf. Is that your idea of a fucking gift?’ she said.

 

Kelly had used that tone for the last few days of her mother’s life. Helping her take the pills, washed down with Black Russians and ordering things on the credit card, knowing she would be dead before the bills came in. She had told her mother about growing up with her, the raw, craving need which deadened the nerves of her childhood. Her mother had been insensible, but she had gawked at Kelly, an empty vessel for a lifetime of regret and sadness. It had not been enough.

 

‘You won’t be the same. Different physiology to work with. A higher sensorial capacity and with what I’ve learned from John, it will be less painful for you.’ she said.

 

Kelly leaned forwards and reached across the temple. Her mother’s hands were chill, sluggish circulation and they trembled. The fingers beneath captured the memory to perfection and she closed her eyes.

 

‘What are you, please, he’s torturing himself to find out.’ she said.

 

Her mother gave a thin smile.

 

‘My name does not matter. He has to find me to save you both. We’re not angels or demons, Kelly.’

 

Her mother tilted her head to one side.

 

‘We’re the things behind them.’ she said. ‘A group of monsters.’

 

Kelly’s head exploded with a sharp dart of pain as pressure ballooned in her sinuses and her heels beat a tattoo against the floorboards. She watched a sea of numbers above her, upon which floated burning lotuses before she heard her mother’s voice.

 

‘They’re coming, Kelly.  Prepare.’ she said.

 

The chair fell apart beneath her and the floor slipped away as she tumbled down into the velvet dark. She screamed, but the silence ate her cries and she watched the world above diminish into a wisp of detail and then nothing.

 

2.

 

Kelly awoke to the sun in her eyes. There was warm, fresh grass between her fingers and she looked over rolling hills at the warm amber and orange of a sunrise. She used to greet the dawn but the last few years, it had been something she hid from.

 

She wondered if she was showing herself this or it was another cruel trick to torment her. Kelly got up and saw her subconscious had put her in a dress and she narrowed her eyes before she heard the roar of something behind her.

 

Kelly looked around and saw the wolf padding towards her. Ropes of saliva dripped from its open maw. She knew it was not John in there and she ran knowing it would find her. Its paws stomped into the earth and its breath was on the back of her neck like a rotten furnace as a hammer of flesh and bone smacked her between her shoulder blades and shot her to the ground. Kelly’s lungs spasmed with the need for air before she realised she wasn’t breathing in here. Kelly’s head cleared and she was on her feet, looking into its eyes and not feeling afraid anymore.

 

She saw the wolf as a collection of systems. The bone structure, the nerve bundles and the respiratory organs swam in her central vision and she knew where to hit him and how hard. It was the same quiet awareness she had for computers and locks, code and the quiet order of programming but imposed upon something alive and immediate.

 

A form of diseased displacement, she told herself but the wolf charged and she swung the heel of her left foot up into its nose and it cracked with the impact, bucking to the right as she turned and ran. Her leg ached from the force but she ran without stopping.

 

The sun rose and she moved towards it but the darkness tore into the sky and swooped in to claim her again.

 

Her eyes itched as she looked into the LED lighting and there was a crust around her mouth which cracked as she tested the muscles in her jaw. Kelly’s skin felt like a sunburn deep enough to burn out her nerve endings but there was a rapid wave of sensations emerging, sharp and clean as she realised she was alive.

 

There was a presence pulling at the corner of her vision and in her head, she reached and found herself in possession of John’s knowledge. She did not understand the language, but she could learn. Kelly had a thirst for information and here was a rich vein to drink from. The shape of the thought was chilling and she pulled away.

 

The tube in her throat was warm and thick as she bucked against it.

 

He said her name as he removed the tube from her throat and hooked his finger inside her mouth and scooped out a plug of mucus.

 

‘Kelly pawed with her bandaged fingers at her chest, the carapace of scabbed tissue now hanging from her new skin by threads of sticky tissue which prickled and chilled at the same time.

 

‘It chose me, John. If it’s a disease, it’s smart.’ she said.

 

He helped with the bandages but she shook her head.

 

‘I need a minute. Is there a shower here?’ she said.

Talking hurt her jaw and it was too slow to match pace with her thoughts and feelings. He stepped back and his eyes shone with a quiet hurt but he smiled at her.

 

‘Whatever you need.’ he said.

 

He pointed out the chamber at the back of the facility. There were towels and he went back to the house. His relief was clear at her return but her manner concerned him. She waited until he left and got up from the bed. The brittle snap of breaking scabs loosened the bandage and underneath the hot water, she slipped free of it, crying out as the hot water cleansed her skin.

 

It was soft, free of the blemishes and scars which had been part of her, but there was a softness and strength to her limbs which was beguiling to her. The scabs and bandages became a knot of stained cloth as she washed herself over and over.

 

She wept over her mother but she felt it pass as she dried herself and put on the robe John had left outside for her.

 

John’s scent clung to the air and she followed it into the house. A short, squat dog with a blunt muzzle sniffed at her as she opened the door. John got to his feet and stared at her.

 

‘Wow’ he said.

 

Standard
romance, short fiction, women

Episode 23: Instructions and Transformations

Previous episodes are here.

1.

Olivia and Amaro walked through the garden in the early hours of the morning. The crisp precision of the landscaping gave off an air of order which Olivia stared at, mesmerised by the intricacies of a simple palm tree.

 

Amaro had to clear his throat to regain her attention. She blinked both sets of eyelids and he chuckled.

 

‘You will need to work on your control, Ms Nixon.’

 

She gave a short nod, too overwhelmed with the sensation to speak before he gestured around him.

 

‘You see intricacy and beauty with the finest detail. It will pass, and so it must.’

 

There were ridges of muscle each time she swallowed and speech was more regurgitation over elegance.

 

‘You give good speeches but I have a task, don’t I?’

 

He looked Olivia up and down.

 

‘You do. I insist you control yourself before you carry it out.’

 

She grimaced, her thoughts ran amuck as she fought a deep and hard rush of aggression, ready to lash out at him. Olivia dug her fingers into the meat of her palms. She cried out as needles slid and pulled her fingers free, saw the lipless incisions she had left.

 

‘Good idea.’ she said.

 

Amaro lowered his eyes and pointed to her hands.

 

‘We are all prisoners of our anatomies, and now you’re having to learn to accommodate new capabilities.’

 

She looked at her palm as the cuts closed, enjoying the deep itching of repair before she met his stare.

 

‘How long before I learn?’ she said.

 

Amaro’s face shuddered like a calf in a slaughterhouse as patches of translucent green flesh danced across his skin and his cheeks swelled with his new teeth before he returned to his handsome, distinguished features.

 

‘I took about twenty years and even then I still risked death in challenging myself.’

 

He raised his left hand.

 

‘I will challenge you with something. Find the man who helped the woman get away. Ask him to meet with me and nothing more.’

 

‘Wouldn’t a phone call suffice?’

 

You found the papers. I want to speak with him but I would send no one unprepared.’

 

He reached into his pocket and retrieved a packet of cigarettes, tapped one out as he looked at her with interest.

 

‘I do not believe those were dogs, Olivia. You will confirm it for me.’

 

She took in a deep breath, flinched at the fluttering spasm of muscles and bones in motion before she felt herself aching but restored to her human musculature.

 

Amaro blinked and lit up. Olivia watched the chemical reaction of the lighter flame applied to the end of the cigarette and the individual flares of the burning strands of tobacco before she softened her gaze and blinked in astonishment.

 

Amaro exhaled and looked at her, smiling as he clapped his hands.

 

‘See, you’re the closest thing I have to a child. You will do wonderful things for us, Olivia.’

 

He offered her the packet and she took one as he lit it for her.

 

She inhaled and raised her head against the shivering rush of the cigarette smoke. When she exhaled, she watched his aura, purple and black seething around him and wondered what she looked like to him. This was a step forwards into a state of power and strength which eluded her in life and all she had to do was find one man.

 

‘Then the hunger whispered in her bones and she wondered, for a moment, what it would feel like to feed on someone, and how excited she was by it. She had solved murders through understanding the uses people found for one another. Olivia Nixon had found another use for some of them.

 

2.

 

‘If I tell you, you will think I’ve lost my mind, which is the best fucking reason to get me out of there.’

 

Jasper exhaled it in one breath. He was drenched with sweat, his cool left when he got in the back of the cab and spoke with someone who could help him.

 

Perez glanced at him in the mirror.

 

‘What, he fucks kids or something?’

 

Jasper laughed and it was pitched high enough to make Perez turn and look at him. He had ascetic drawn features but his eyes were warm and soulful enough to inspire confession.

 

‘He’s not someone we should go anywhere near. It’s not worth it, trust me.’

 

Perez narrowed his eyes and tested Jasper’s expression with the concern someone who has been made fun of for other people’s amusement.

 

‘We’ve got a whole crew on this. If he’s doing dirt, we can use it. Blackmail.’

 

Jasper shook his head and closed his eyes in disbelief.

 

‘Have you ever seen something you wish you hadn’t.’

 

Perez chewed the inside of his cheek as he stared down, lost in recollection.

 

‘When I was getting high, I ended up living with a couple in Arizona. They got into it, and she was screaming at him and holding the baby. I was fucking high, sat on their couch. We’d been smoking for days, you know.

I’m thinking, bitch put the fucking kid down, you’re scaring him. They’re into something fucking childish and I’m thinking she will say something or he will hit her, or both and instead this guy plucked the baby out of her arms and swung it against the wall. You never get the sound out.  Nor the screams, man.’

 

Perez glanced up.

 

‘Is it that kinda bad?’ he said.

 

Jasper swallowed and glared at him.

 

‘Yeah it is but my situation is we bail out now. There are things no one deals with. This, mate, is ours. He’ll find me anyway but I can’t work for a fucking monster, and I mean the word. I fucking do.’

 

Perez nodded. Jasper had done good work for them. He knew the companies who were hiring, Perez saw him as a judas goat, tethered by his reputation to lure out the big money. Jasper had worked his way into Fidelity Assurance and Mutual Interests when they were linked to mercenaries operating in the Middle East. This one had been a long time in planning. It was nothing strong arm, just a back door left open, a little taken to wet their beaks and then move on, live the good life for a while before the money ran out.

 

Jasper looked terrified.

 

Perez turned back and started the cab.

 

‘Can you come with me now?’

 

Jasper fought the urge to sob. He nodded and Perez swore under his breath as he looked in the mirror at the back of Perez’ head. Jasper reached over, took it between his hands and kissed it.

 

‘Yes, and we need to get everyone together and run.’ he said.

 

Perez took the cab out into traffic.

 

Jasper sat back by degrees. The relief was a narcotic, but he did not sit back until they were out into traffic.

 

‘So, did he have a tail?’ Perez said.

 

Jasper craved a cigarette, but he laughed and shook his head. The laughter hurt his throat before he stopped and put the cigarette back into the packet. His mouth twisted and he wept as he spat out the story in thick gobbets, like regurgitating lumps of gristle as he talked about meeting his employer in person.

 

3.

 

Adam walked to the shore and continued into the water. Two seals watched him pass before wobbling away until they hit the water, guided by the voice telling them to run from the thing which walked into the water.

 

He had shed skin as he walked, revealing more of the luminous white skin. His hands had healed over, fingers tapering to graceful points as he closed his eyes and entered the water. The pressure was uncomfortable, but he replayed a memory of holding flowers by a lake, the hope of love and it was enough to see him through the long, slow walk across the ocean floor.

He emerged on the far shore, one eye popped from the socket from the pressure at one point but he popped it back in with a lazy jab of his index finger. He stood there, dripping and naked, looking at the boy sat in front of him.

 

Jerry was thirteen years old, smoking a joint he had rolled from his brother’s stash, on the beach. He was shivering and the weed had pinched and tickled his imagination in ways which weren’t helped by the trembling edge of the high. Looking up, he saw the man, tall and white, staring at him with a contempt which made Jerry pull his knees up to his chest and look away.

 

Jerry sat there, the blanket wrapped around him, looking at the joint smouldering in his fingers before the fingers made knots in his hair and a hand clamped over his mouth before he could scream. Adam squeezed as the boy’s skull caved in as a rush of splintered bone and brain matter spilled out onto the sand. He strode back to the water and tossed him into the water before he leaned forwards and splashed the gruel from his chest and hands.

 

He walked inland.

 

Standard
romance, short fiction, women

Episode 23: Instructions and Transformations

Previous episodes are here.

1.

Olivia and Amaro walked through the garden in the early hours of the morning. The crisp precision of the landscaping gave off an air of order which Olivia stared at, mesmerised by the intricacies of a simple palm tree.

 

Amaro had to clear his throat to regain her attention. She blinked both sets of eyelids and he chuckled.

 

‘You will need to work on your control, Ms Nixon.’

 

She gave a short nod, too overwhelmed with the sensation to speak before he gestured around him.

 

‘You see intricacy and beauty with the finest detail. It will pass, and so it must.’

 

There were ridges of muscle each time she swallowed and speech was more regurgitation over elegance.

 

‘You give good speeches but I have a task, don’t I?’

 

He looked Olivia up and down.

 

‘You do. I insist you control yourself before you carry it out.’

 

She grimaced, her thoughts ran amuck as she fought a deep and hard rush of aggression, ready to lash out at him. Olivia dug her fingers into the meat of her palms. She cried out as needles slid and pulled her fingers free, saw the lipless incisions she had left.

 

‘Good idea.’ she said.

 

Amaro lowered his eyes and pointed to her hands.

 

‘We are all prisoners of our anatomies, and now you’re having to learn to accommodate new capabilities.’

 

She looked at her palm as the cuts closed, enjoying the deep itching of repair before she met his stare.

 

‘How long before I learn?’ she said.

 

Amaro’s face shuddered like a calf in a slaughterhouse as patches of translucent green flesh danced across his skin and his cheeks swelled with his new teeth before he returned to his handsome, distinguished features.

 

‘I took about twenty years and even then I still risked death in challenging myself.’

 

He raised his left hand.

 

‘I will challenge you with something. Find the man who helped the woman get away. Ask him to meet with me and nothing more.’

 

‘Wouldn’t a phone call suffice?’

 

You found the papers. I want to speak with him but I would send no one unprepared.’

 

He reached into his pocket and retrieved a packet of cigarettes, tapped one out as he looked at her with interest.

 

‘I do not believe those were dogs, Olivia. You will confirm it for me.’

 

She took in a deep breath, flinched at the fluttering spasm of muscles and bones in motion before she felt herself aching but restored to her human musculature.

 

Amaro blinked and lit up. Olivia watched the chemical reaction of the lighter flame applied to the end of the cigarette and the individual flares of the burning strands of tobacco before she softened her gaze and blinked in astonishment.

 

Amaro exhaled and looked at her, smiling as he clapped his hands.

 

‘See, you’re the closest thing I have to a child. You will do wonderful things for us, Olivia.’

 

He offered her the packet and she took one as he lit it for her.

 

She inhaled and raised her head against the shivering rush of the cigarette smoke. When she exhaled, she watched his aura, purple and black seething around him and wondered what she looked like to him. This was a step forwards into a state of power and strength which eluded her in life and all she had to do was find one man.

 

‘Then the hunger whispered in her bones and she wondered, for a moment, what it would feel like to feed on someone, and how excited she was by it. She had solved murders through understanding the uses people found for one another. Olivia Nixon had found another use for some of them.

 

2.

 

‘If I tell you, you will think I’ve lost my mind, which is the best fucking reason to get me out of there.’

 

Jasper exhaled it in one breath. He was drenched with sweat, his cool left when he got in the back of the cab and spoke with someone who could help him.

 

Perez glanced at him in the mirror.

 

‘What, he fucks kids or something?’

 

Jasper laughed and it was pitched high enough to make Perez turn and look at him. He had ascetic drawn features but his eyes were warm and soulful enough to inspire confession.

 

‘He’s not someone we should go anywhere near. It’s not worth it, trust me.’

 

Perez narrowed his eyes and tested Jasper’s expression with the concern someone who has been made fun of for other people’s amusement.

 

‘We’ve got a whole crew on this. If he’s doing dirt, we can use it. Blackmail.’

 

Jasper shook his head and closed his eyes in disbelief.

 

‘Have you ever seen something you wish you hadn’t.’

 

Perez chewed the inside of his cheek as he stared down, lost in recollection.

 

‘When I was getting high, I ended up living with a couple in Arizona. They got into it, and she was screaming at him and holding the baby. I was fucking high, sat on their couch. We’d been smoking for days, you know.

I’m thinking, bitch put the fucking kid down, you’re scaring him. They’re into something fucking childish and I’m thinking she will say something or he will hit her, or both and instead this guy plucked the baby out of her arms and swung it against the wall. You never get the sound out.  Nor the screams, man.’

 

Perez glanced up.

 

‘Is it that kinda bad?’ he said.

 

Jasper swallowed and glared at him.

 

‘Yeah it is but my situation is we bail out now. There are things no one deals with. This, mate, is ours. He’ll find me anyway but I can’t work for a fucking monster, and I mean the word. I fucking do.’

 

Perez nodded. Jasper had done good work for them. He knew the companies who were hiring, Perez saw him as a judas goat, tethered by his reputation to lure out the big money. Jasper had worked his way into Fidelity Assurance and Mutual Interests when they were linked to mercenaries operating in the Middle East. This one had been a long time in planning. It was nothing strong arm, just a back door left open, a little taken to wet their beaks and then move on, live the good life for a while before the money ran out.

 

Jasper looked terrified.

 

Perez turned back and started the cab.

 

‘Can you come with me now?’

 

Jasper fought the urge to sob. He nodded and Perez swore under his breath as he looked in the mirror at the back of Perez’ head. Jasper reached over, took it between his hands and kissed it.

 

‘Yes, and we need to get everyone together and run.’ he said.

 

Perez took the cab out into traffic.

 

Jasper sat back by degrees. The relief was a narcotic, but he did not sit back until they were out into traffic.

 

‘So, did he have a tail?’ Perez said.

 

Jasper craved a cigarette, but he laughed and shook his head. The laughter hurt his throat before he stopped and put the cigarette back into the packet. His mouth twisted and he wept as he spat out the story in thick gobbets, like regurgitating lumps of gristle as he talked about meeting his employer in person.

 

3.

 

Adam walked to the shore and continued into the water. Two seals watched him pass before wobbling away until they hit the water, guided by the voice telling them to run from the thing which walked into the water.

 

He had shed skin as he walked, revealing more of the luminous white skin. His hands had healed over, fingers tapering to graceful points as he closed his eyes and entered the water. The pressure was uncomfortable, but he replayed a memory of holding flowers by a lake, the hope of love and it was enough to see him through the long, slow walk across the ocean floor.

He emerged on the far shore, one eye popped from the socket from the pressure at one point but he popped it back in with a lazy jab of his index finger. He stood there, dripping and naked, looking at the boy sat in front of him.

 

Jerry was thirteen years old, smoking a joint he had rolled from his brother’s stash, on the beach. He was shivering and the weed had pinched and tickled his imagination in ways which weren’t helped by the trembling edge of the high. Looking up, he saw the man, tall and white, staring at him with a contempt which made Jerry pull his knees up to his chest and look away.

 

Jerry sat there, the blanket wrapped around him, looking at the joint smouldering in his fingers before the fingers made knots in his hair and a hand clamped over his mouth before he could scream. Adam squeezed as the boy’s skull caved in as a rush of splintered bone and brain matter spilled out onto the sand. He strode back to the water and tossed him into the water before he leaned forwards and splashed the gruel from his chest and hands.

 

He walked inland.

 

Standard